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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 15, Part 2

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that always finds new ways to horrify and sicken. Last time we were treated to a really, really irritating chat between Rayford and Hattie. What happens this week? Well, some stuff with Buck, the anti-christ, and a television. So... yay?

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to Ken for really putting things in perspective:

For this one, I have realized the world in which the authors live: it is a world in which Hattie's only two options for sex are named Rayford and Buck, but it's not a porn movie.

Unfortunately, that's not quite true, Ken. Hattie does have some other options, though they are so absurd that it'll make you giggle hysterically. I'd also like to extend my hopes to scripto that he feel better soon. Seriously, I rely on all of you guys to keep me company on this little hell-ride, so don't go anywhere!

And with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag.


Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by an arcane rite...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot. Lying hypocrite. Christian.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven. Reader of marriage books. Cleans obsessively. Likes egg in her coffee. Bakes really silly cookies. Likes butter churns.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz. Fast typist. Clumsy on slides. Travels a lot. Graduated from Princeton. Human alarm clock. Expert in Romanian politics.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid.

Chaim Rosenzweig: Israeli chemist. Kinda freaky. Friend of Buck's.

Steve Plank: Buck's boss at Global Weekly. Not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. Botswanan national.


Page 268- Line Mongoose:

No quote, but we open with Buck and Steve, who are contemplating how to get Buck to his promised interview with Carpathia given that (a) the cops and Interpol are looking for him and, (b) his George Oreskovitch cover has been blown. They fail to solve the problem and decide to just forget about it by going to watch Carpathia's appearance on Nightline at Marge Potter's house. Not much of a plan, I'll admit, but what do you expect from Buck and Steve? Anyway, they head over and annoy Marge's husband by taking over the t.v. And then we're reading about two guys watching television, thereby coninuing the grand tradition of Left Behind. Honestly, this shit makes me wonder if the authors are closet voyeurs who find it sexually arousing to be intensely bored.

Page 270- Line 5-12:
Carpathia smiled. "Like anyone from Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, I am amazed at your technology. I-"

"But isn't it true, sir, that your roots are actually in Western Europe? Though you were born in Romania, are you not by heritage actually Italian?" [Wallace Theodore, the interviewer, asked]

"That is true, as it is true of many native Romanians. Thus the name of our country."

And this is is supposed to be an example of hard-nosed journalism? Maybe in bizarro world. It's just a lame excuse for the authors to hammer their own read of theology home once more. And I don't know what to say about that whole claim that anyone from Europe would be impressed at U.S. technology. We have some neat shit but it's not like France and Germany are backwaters, you know?

Page 270- Line 17-21:
"But is it not true that you [Carpathia] just came from a photo session with People magazine?" [Theodore asked]

"Yes, but I-"

"And is it not also true that they have already named you their new Sexiest Man Alive?" [emphasis original]

This is- hands down- the dumbest fictional interview I have ever seen. It's what would happen if Sarah Palin were asking the questions instead of desperately trying to answer them. No, scratch that, it's like one of those infomercials we see that mimic an interview, "Doctor Fortunado, isn't it true that your new wang-master 5000 can make a penis grow five full inches?" Fortunately, we're going to gently transition from the fluff into some hard questions.

Page 271- Line 13-17:
"I do not consider myself sexy. I am on a crusade to see the peoples of the world come together. I do not seek a position of power or authority. I simply ask to be heard. I hope my message comes through in the article in the magazine as well." [Carpathia explained]

Leaving aside his potential self-esteem issues, I think we're meant to find all this very threatening. Charismatic leader implores us to stop killing each other and recognize our common humanity... yeah. Clearly a bad dude. The softballs are about to come to an abrupt end, however.

Page 271- Line 22-30:
"How do you [Carpathia] respond to those who say you skirted protocol and that your elevation to the presidency in Romania was partially effected by strong-arm tactics?"

"I [Carpathia] would say that that is the perfect way to attack a pacifist, one who is committed to disarmament not only in Romania and the rest of Europe but also globally."

"So you deny having a business rival murdered seven years ago and using intimidation and powerful friends in America to usurp the president's authority in Romania?"

Is this even serious? It's like an interrogation on Perry Mason or something. Dude, if he did do it, I don't think you're going to trip him up with your clever tactic of just asking the question outright. He's too sly to fall for that, mister interviewer man! Needless to say, the anti-christ denies the whole thing.

Page 272- Line 16-20:
Marge's husband growled, "This Roman kid is light on his feet."

"Romanian," Marge corrected.

"I heard him say he's a full-blood Eye-talian," her husband said. Marge winked at Steve and Buck.

Okay, yes, fine, we get it- the anti-christ is Roman. This is at least the third time the authors have gone out of their way to hammer this point home and I'm frankly sick of it. We know you have a wacky conspiracy theory. We know you believe that the anti-christ will be Roman and, so, have to come up with some way to make the character fit. Fine. Just shut up about it already. On an unrelated note: I know she's supposed to be reacting to what her husband said, but I really prefer to interpret that last line as a come-on to Steve and Buck. Oh, Marge! You naughty thing, you! Anyway, Carpathia talks a bit about how he was never seeking political leverage and the interviewer gives him a perfect chance to climb up on the campaign stump.

Page 273- Line 4-11:
"I [Carpathia] did not feel it was my place to suggest such changes [to the U.N.] when I was a guest; however, I have no hesitation in this context. I am a proponent of disarmament. That is no secret. While I am impressed with the wide-ranging capabilities, plans, and programs of the United Nations, I do believe, with a few minor adjustments and the cooperation of its members, it can be all it was meant to be. We can truly become a global community."

I know that "global community" language is meant to be ominous and threatening but, honestly? I think it's kinda inevitable that we either unite as a species or make ourselves extinct. And given that I do not belong to a religion that looks forward to the apocalypse with gleeful anticipation, you can probably guess my preferences. At the same time, though, I'm forced to wonder: how much U.N. history does Carpathia (and, by extension, the authors) really grasp? Because it was never really designed to be a world-government- more like a mutual defense treaty with a negotiating element added on. Anyway, the host then asks Carpathia to describe his planned changes to the U.N., and since I had to sit through it, so do you. He starts by reminding us all that the security council consists of five permanent members and ten temporary members. Then it gets weird.

Page 273- Line 20-29:
"I respect the proprietary nature of the original five [permanent members]. I propose choosing another five, just one each from the five different regions of the world. Drop the temporary members. Then you would have ten permanent members of the Security Council, but the rest of my plan is revolutionary. Currently the five permanent members have veto power. Votes on procedure require a nine-vote majority; including all five permanent members. I propose a tougher system. I propose unanimity."

Okay, so, first off, this is just a weird way for the authors to- once more- fit their plot to wacky interpretations of the bible. They're damned determined to make sure there are ten guys in charge of some or other big important shit so, hey, we get this new insane system that actually gives the current permanent members even more power! Bravo. Second- the "five different regions of the world"? What the fuck does that mean? Last time I checked there were seven continents of which six could be said to have noteworthy populations.* I suppose he could be lumping Europe in with Asia- a not totally unreasonable move- but based on modern cartographic conventions, just randomly mentioning the "five different regions of the world" is far from obviously meaningful. And last, but not least: oh, shit, really? He wants to make an international deliberative body only able to function if it has unanimity? Is he- in a word- stoopid? You think the U.N. is gridlocked now? Just wait until it's run like a Unitarian Universalist** committee- then we'll REALLY see gridlock!

Page 274- Line 4-13:
"It [Carpathia's plan] sounds like a nightmare." [the reporter observed]

"But it would work, and here is why. A nightmare is what happened to us last week. The time is right for the peoples of the world to rise up and insist that their governments disarm and destroy all but ten percent of their weapons. That ten percent would be, in effect, donated to the United Nations so it could return to its rightful place as a global peacekeeping body, with the authority and the power and the equipment to do the job." [Carpathia replied]

And that's the dumbest thing I've heard in at least a dozen paragraphs. You know what's actually more important than guns for making an army? Logistics. That is to say, food, water, fuel, medical supplies, and ammunition. I'm sure ten percent of the global weapons stockpile is a lot of f-ing weapons, but it's a fixed supply of ammunition. In order to become an effective global peacekeeping body, the U.N. would have to tax the world, develop its own supra-national army, secure a manufacturing base, and so forth. This is why in the original U.N. charter, the major powers were supposed to essentially supply the U.N. with its military forces, but the soldiers and equipment in question would still belong, in effect, to their sponsoring nations. What Carpathia is describing would require such a massive reworking of what the U.N. is, or was ever intended to be, that it's not even funny.

Page 274- Line 16-19:
He [Carpathia] said that the original veto power of the permanent members had hampered military peace efforts, such as in Korea and during the Cold War. [emphasis added]

That's quite the turn of phrase, no? I honestly don't know what to say to the concept of a "military peace effort." This is not, of course, to denigrate soldiers or to imply that peace isn't somewhat encouraged by a judicious degree of firepower, but more to suggest that by the time the military is substantially involved, peace is not really what's going on anymore. And he's right that the veto power caused some problems but (a) arguably the whole point of a veto is to do just that by preventing rash action and (b) isn't this the nitwit who just proposed upgrading the system to require unanimity?

Page 274- Line 20-21:
"Sir, where did you get your encyclopedic knowledge of the U.N. and world affairs?" [the reporter asked]

I'm guessing wikipedia. Jesus titty-fucking Christ, people! So he can apparently READ! Oh, wow, he MUST be the anti-christ.

Page 274- Line 24-30:
"What is your [Carpathia's] personal goal? A leadership role in the European Common Market?" [the reporter asked]

"Romania is not even a member, as you know. But no, I have no personal goal of leadership, except as a voice. We must disarm, we must empower the United Nations, we must move to one currency, and we must become a global village."

We must resist the urge to vomit when confronted with this crap. And as long as we're talking about vomit, I should mention that the narrative suddenly jumps back to good old Rayford who is watching this hideous telecast with Chloe. And, believe it or not, he really likes Carpathia, and says so.

Page 275- Line 9-16:
Chloe smiled. "So you're not going to start comparing him with the liar the pastor's tape warned us of, somebody from Europe who tries to take over the world?"

"Hardly," Rayford said. "There's nothing evil or self-seeking about this guy. Something tells me the deceiver the pastor talked about would be a little more obvious."

"But," Chloe said, "if he's a deceiver, maybe he's a good one."

One point to Chloe for stating the obvious. And if you didn't think any of the earlier stuff was a sure recipe for paranoia, this sure is. I can just see the thought processes now: "Hmmmm... this politician wants to do good things. HE MUST BE THE ANTI-CHRIST!!!" Sigh. Anyway, at that point Hattie just happens to call, excited as all hell about Carpathia. She asks to get on Rayford's next flight to New York, apparently because she wants to look up Buck and have her introduce her to Carpathia. Rayford's reaction is... weird.

Page 276- Line 10-18:
That was a relief to Rayford. So Hattie wasn't afraid to talk about two younger guys she was clearly interested in seeing, or at least meeting. He was sure she wasn't just saying it to test his level of interest. Surely she knew he wasn't interested in anyone with his wife so recently gone. Rayford wondered whether he should follow through on his plan to be honest with her about his past feelings for her. Maybe he should just jump right into urging that she watch the pastor's videotape.

So, apparently Rayford hasn't really upgraded his knowledge of women or dating since he was in middle school. Awesome. Regardless, he tries to weasel out of letting her on his flight and she starts to grill him about why he's been avoiding her. My margin note observes, "Snap! She's on to you, sport." Ah, eloquence worthy of the bard, that.

Page 278- Line 1-9:
"Hattie, what are you saying?" [Rayford asked]

"Only that you enjoyed running around with me in private, pretending like something was going on."

"I'll admit that."

"And I do feel bad about your wife, Rayford, I really do. You're probably feeling guilty, even though we never did anything to feel guilty about. But don't cast me aside before you have a chance to get over your loss and start living again."

This actually confuses me. They had something together, but they didn't? Cast her aside? What? The advice about not making rash decisions while grieving, however, is actually quite good.

Page 278- Line 22-26:
"If I [Hattie] had ever thought there was really a chance with you, I'd have pursued it, believe me."

Rayford was taken aback. His fears and assumptions were correct, but now he felt defensive. "You never thought there was a chance?"

Okay, so, to sum up: Hattie is a tramp, and fears and assumptions are reliable sources of knowledge about the world. Lovely.

Page 278- Line 27-30:
"You hardly gave me any indication. For all I knew, you thought I was a cute kid, way too young, fun to be with, but don't touch." [Hattie answered]

"There's some truth to that." [Rayford said]

"But mostly I just think you're only fun and pretty for your age. I really hate young people." Okay, seriously, they argue for another page or so, during which Hattie says she didn't expect to be ignored- whatever the hell that means- and then says she doesn't want to come to dinner. Rayford lets slip that there's something he wants to talk to her about and she demands to know what it is. Rayford is reluctant to just come right out, though, and admit that he wants to totally make sweet, sweet chaste love to her immortal soul.

Page 281- Line 1-8:
"Well, I [Rayford] know what the disappearances were all about, all right? I know what they meant, and I want to help you find the truth."

Hattie was dead silent for a long moment. "You haven't become some kind of fanatic, have you?"

Rayford had to think about that one. The answer was yes, he most certainly had, but he wasn't going to say that. "You know me better than that."

Ah, yes. Lie your way into people's time. How delightful! Hattie, unfortunately, doesn't agree that deception in the name of Jesus is just a wonderful thing, and declares that she won't come unless Rayford tells her over the phone. He refuses- for some inexplicable reason- and she hangs up the phone. In fact, she hangs up the phone so hard, it ends the chapter. I wish I knew how to do that!

And so we close another chapter of Left Behind. At this point, I can only share with you the closing remark that I scrawled at the bottom of the page, which reads: "It becomes more and more apparent just how much the authors hate humanity. They're falling all over themselves to show how we suck." I stand by that. Oh, I don't know that the authors hate mankind, but their entire worldview is built on the notion that we're just terrible little pissant creatures. I find that very, very sad. I know we're not perfect, but we are also quite beautiful in our own way, and our nobility comes from the striving to become moreso. But, alas, none of that striving appears in the next chapter, when we return to the love affair between Buck and Carpathia, and once more stress over Chloe's soul.

See you then!

* The seventh, Antarctica, is inhabited pretty much year-round, but isn't really what I'd call populated. The others- for the geographically pathetic- are North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. All of those have substantial populaces.

** I should point out that my wife was/is a U.U. and, as such, I know of what I speak. I got nothin but love for U.U.'s, they're the only denominations that kinda has my back as an atheist, but their committee system is a tad troubled.



Blogger scripto said...

Thanks for the shout out. I'm getting better. All the death and disease around me these last few months have got me to thinking that maybe there isn't any plan regarding the whole thing. But then I think maybe the Lord blessed me with these 104 degree fevers in order that I could bring a feverish intensity to my Left Behind comments and that Jesus won't let me die until we finish the series. That would give me decades. It's starting to make sense to me now. Don't ever stop. I'm counting on you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010 2:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Sunday, February 28, 2010 4:10:00 PM  

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