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Biblical Proportions<br> By Marc Porter Zasada<p> IT'S LATE AFTERNOON IN LOS ANGELES, just before an election of Biblical proportions, and the Urban Man finds himself sitting in a deck chair beside his normally cheerful swimming pool. I'm having a final political argument with my friend Roland. We speak loudly, but the scene is framed by sunlight, trumpet vines and banana trees. <p> One last time we use dangerous and unavoidable words: courage, democracy, beheadings, oil reserves, coalitions, suitcase bombs. My friend leans forward. He gestures. And at last he invokes a maximum, almost Biblical language. He brushes aside mere argument, and says that it all comes down to a single leader's personality: His beliefs. His strengths. His flaws. <p> Despite the onset of autumn, I've heated the pool as a kind of defiant, last minute L.A. gesture, and my boys are playing a happy game in the deep end. They leap and shout and kick up big waves that ricochet across the water like a miniature typhoon. <p> Just out of splash range, I rouse myself to outline my candidate's backbone -- but I try to avoid maximum language. I argue, unconvincingly, that other issues also matter: air, water, debt, health. <p> And secretly, I indulge an immature fantasy. Secretly, I recall the words of some unforgotten grade school teacher, speaking in front of a blackboard with her pointy glasses and too-tight hair. In my memory, I sit with the other children, hands folded primly, and I'm sure I recall the teacher confidently telling us that the American Century does not actually depend on any one vote. That we have solemn congresses and learned commissions, fatherly judges and friendly joint chiefs of staff so that one man's personality does not actually determine our fate. <p> America isn't like some ancient empire or Biblical drama, she assures us. We don't elect Davids or Joshuas or Absaloms. Sure, presidents are important, but by golly in America, we have checks and balances. We exercise collective wisdom. And one man alone can't set off firestorms, locusts, earthquakes or new historical eras-.can he? <p> I don't mention these thoughts to my friend. He would rightly consider them childish. <p> It was a bright afternoon when we started our conversation, but now a coastal fog steals through the banana leaves, and covers the sun until it looks like a pale moon. <p> A chill drops into the backyard of the Urban Man, and I watch the big waves on the swimming pool go grey, like the ocean itself. The storm the boys are making looks strangely like a real storm, and I have an irrational desire to call them out of the pool. I restrain myself. It's late, and soon, I'm sure, they'll get out by themselves. <p> Roland begins one last serious and terrifying speech, but I'm not paying much attention -- for sure enough, a teenaged boy emerges from the waves, laughing and dripping water from his muscles. He's my biggest son, nearly seventeen. In one year he'll be old enough for a military draft both candidates have promised will not happen. <p> And for a moment, here in my small but pleasant L.A. backyard, seated in my cheerful landscaping, a minivan parked in my driveway, and the comforting roar of afternoon traffic just a few blocks away, the Urban Man looks up into the gathering fog to make a last, na-ve request. <p> I ask only that our vote tomorrow turns out to be not quite so important as we all believe it to be. <p> At least, not of Biblical proportions. <p> Copyright - 2004 by Marc Porter Zasada, all rights reserved. Names of speakers have been changed to protect personal relationships. <br>
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