Episode 29.1: The Reception Room For Heaven

Back in Episode 27, we attended the wake for Chester Lewis, a young man killed while on patrol in Iraq. But sometimes it takes more than a wake or a funeral for one to feel at peace with another’s death. Sometimes it’s an issue of justice.

The Last Chance Democracy Café
Episode 29.1: The Reception Room For Heaven

by Steven C. Day

William Allen White once famously wrote, “Peace without justice is tyranny.” If that’s true, then what should we make of democracy without justice?

* * *

Justice was a topic very much on my mind this sad wintry evening at The Last Chance Democracy Café. John Lewis had just left, marking the end of our wake for his son, Chester, killed three months earlier while on patrol in Iraq. John’s departure, in truth, came as something of a relief to the rest of us in the lounge. It had been a rough evening. Gut wrenching, really. But now that was over, and soon we would be returning to the comfort of our own routines.

It’s one of the less attractive, but perhaps most essential, aspects of human nature that our capacity to mourn deeply for those outside of our own immediate circle is generally subject to a strict statute of limitations. If it were otherwise, the accumulated grief of the world would eventually drag us down. So, even as I sat there at the large round table, with Zach and the wise men, feeling enormous sorrow over Chester’s death, I knew the next morning would bring a new agenda. And that far too soon, I would move on to other things. And although I would certainly still think of Chester, and worry about his parents, inevitably, those thoughts were bound to become fewer and fewer as the days went by. It isn’t that I’m unfeeling.

I’m a person. That’s what people do.

But on this evening there in the café, I wasn’t quite ready yet to let go of Chester. Neither, it turned out, was Zack, who also had justice on his mind.

* * *

The lounge had remained almost completely silent since John left. This was less out of respect, I think, than out of weariness. What’s left to say, was my thought; I suspect the others felt the same way. Had the silence continued for another few minutes, the lounge would probably have emptied out. But Zach wasn’t ready for that to happen.

“Why did Chester have to die, Horace?” he asked in a strained voice.

Horace shook his head slowly. “Why does anyone have to . . .”

Zach cut him off. “No, I don’t mean it that way.” Zach’s voice was uncharacteristically strident. “I’m not asking why people in general have to die . . . or even why Chester in particular had to die, as opposed to another soldier. Why did any of the 1,400 plus Americans . . . And how many Iraqis?”

“One study says over 100,000,” offered Tom.

“Why did any of them have to die?”

I felt a twinge of sympathy for Horace, who, being the closest thing we have to a philosopher king, was the one expected to answer. I didn’t see how he could do it. How do you tell a college kid, still full of idealism, that sometimes people, good people like Chester, die for no better reason than because other people decide to spend their lives recklessly. How do you tell a young man that?

Horace stroked his chin, then leaned forward, speaking directly to Zach. “You already know the answer, don’t you?”

Zach stared intently at his beer. “Yeah, I guess I do.”

“Well, then say it.”

“The lies. He died because of the lies, right?”

“Go on,” said Horace.

“You know . . . the lies about weapons of mass destruction and the supposed connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.”

“Go on.”

Zach seemed surprised that Horace wanted more, but obliged, by next mentioning Bush’s anger over the alleged Iraqi plot to kill his father as one of the factors that may have contributed in bringing about the war and, with it, Chester’s death.

“Go on.”

Zach mentioned the oil.

“Go on.”

Zach shrugged. I guess he didn’t know what Horace was digging for.

I’ll confess, I didn’t either.

* * *

Chester Lewis’ suffering, as horrendous as it was, at least ended, once and for all, approximately 15 minutes after the IED, “Improvised Explosive Device,” exploded. John and Elaine, his parents, didn’t get that “break.” Three months have passed since Chester’s death, and the much vaunted healing powers of time still elude them.

John and Elaine have gone about grieving in markedly different ways. John, trying to be the strong one, went back to work at his insurance agency just five days after receiving the news. Elaine, giving herself permission to fall completely apart, did so. Since the funeral she’s only rarely left the house, even skipping tonight’s wake here at the café. It was just too painful for her. Most casual observers believe that John is adjusting well to the loss, while Elaine isn’t.

They’re half right.

The truth is, as John reluctantly admitted before leaving the café, he hasn’t slept much since Chester’s death; his nights are consumed by the thought of those last 15 minutes, his dreams haunted by the recurring image of Chester, his body horribly mutilated, crying out for help, or even just for simple human comfort, and John, a half a world away, unable to provide it.

* * *

This is how Horace responded to Zach’s litany of causes for the war, and, therefore, of Chester’s death. “All those things played a part. Oil was certainly a big part of the motivation for the war. So was Bush’s personal grudge against Saddam Hussein. And the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and bogus al Qaeda connections were the lies they used to sell it. No doubt about that. But none of that is what actually started the war. What started the War in Iraq was a theory.”

“A theory . . .?” Zach sounded incredulous.

“Hear me out.” Horace held up his hand for Zach to stop, a mannerism he often employs when he wants someone to slow down and listen, instead of jumping to a conclusion. “You remember us talking about the neoconservatives before, right?”

“Sure . . . a little.”

“I’ll recap. Neoconservatives are a group of foreign policy experts . . . or let’s say, would-be foreign policy experts, mostly former liberals, who for a number of years have advocated a more aggressive use of America’s military power. In the case of Iraq, they came up with the theory that if the United States were to invade that victory could be achieved at very little cost. They also believed American troops would be welcomed as heroes by ordinary Iraqis . . .”

“They sure got that one wrong,” said Zach.

“They got everything wrong.” Horace shook his head, his expression falling somewhere along the spectrum between sadness and contempt. “They also contended that once the invasion was successfully completed . . . In other words, after the ‘cakewalk,’ as they called it, was over, we would then be able to build a successful and prosperous democracy in Iraq. And they said we could even do it on the cheap, by using Iraq’s oil revenues to fund everything.”

“Strike two,” said Zach.

“Oh, believe me, they’re up to about strike 700 now. But, as their theory went, once this new democratic Iraqi paradise was born, it would act as a beacon to the rest of the people of the Middle East to throw off their dictatorships. And soon, with a little nudge from America . . . a few more wars of liberation here, a couple covert operations there, and a new democratic Middle East would be born.”

“What a load of crap,” Winston jumped in.

“And on the basis of this,” Horace continued, his voice growing angrier, “a totally unproven theory, they sent some of America’s finest young people, Chester included, to die in Iraq. God, what arrogance!”

Horace paused to sip his beer, attempting, I’m sure, to calm himself. Then he concluded his thought.

“Why did Chester have to die, you ask? He died for a theory, that’s what, a fucking dead between the ears theory!”

* * *

Elaine Lewis is a preschool special education teacher — a damn fine one, from what I hear. One of her students during the last two school years has been an autistic boy, named Jacob. At the time he was placed in Elaine’s class, Jacob was very low functioning, barely verbal, either unable or unwilling to participate in group activities and falling further and further behind on the developmental charts.

Then a minor miracle happened, the kind that keep special education teachers coming back to class despite rotten pay, increasing class sizes and declining resources. Something clicked between Elaine and Jacob. And with remarkable speed, Jacob started to blossom. He became much more verbal. He started playing with the other children, and his assessments, while still far from age appropriate, began shooting up. To his parents, possibilities for his future, basic things most of us take for granted for our kids, like the possibly he might be able to hold a job and live somewhat independently some day, suddenly came into play.

But then Chester was killed and Elaine, devastated, took an immediate leave of absence.

Autistic kids thrive on routine and familiarity and recoil against disruption and sudden change. Having Elaine, one of the three most important people in his life, suddenly disappear, without any opportunity to prepare him before hand, was too much for Jacob. He started regressing. Soon it was almost as though the last year and a half had never happened, as he crawled back inside himself. His mother called Elaine, asking if she could just drop by the school to see him; the child psychologist thought it might help. Elaine promised to try.

Three times now she’s started out for the school, but turned back. John told us she was planning to try again the next day. I’m betting she made it.

Jacob’s name will never appear on any list of the casualties from the Iraq War. But he’s a victim of that conflict just as surely as Chester, John and Elaine are, and so are thousands upon thousands of other people who suffer, each in their own way, far removed from the television cameras.

* * *

“So, do you think there will ever be any kind of justice for what’s happened to kids like Chester in Iraq?” Zach asked Horace. There was a plaintive quality to his voice.

For a few moments, Horace tapped the table top with his long callused fingers; calluses earned through decades of loading and unloading heavy hauls. He seemed distracted. “Tom, why don’t you take this one?” he said quietly.

I didn’t make much of it at the time, but later it would occur to me that this was the first time Horace had ever declined to personally answer a question from Zach.

“I guess that depends on what you mean by justice,” Tom began slowly. “If you’re asking whether Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest will ever be forced to answer for their conduct in a court of law, either here or before some international body, no, that’s not going to happen. No chance.”

Winston jumped in, “Hell, I’d settle for a little political justice . . . an ounce or two of democratic accountability.”

Grunts of agreement echoed from several points in the lounge.

“I know,” said Tom soberly, “in some ways the sense of injustice is the hardest part. Bush tells one lie after another in order to drag us into a war where thousands of people die unnecessarily and hundreds of billions of dollars . . . money desperately needed for other things, is thrown away. Then once he gets his war, his little boat to play with in the bathtub, he blunders every step of the way in carrying it out . . .”

“Like not sending in enough troops to control the country after the invasion, even though our own generals had warned him that more would be needed,” said Marvin, speaking up for the first time from his usual perch at the bar.

“And failing to plan ahead to prevent all the looting that happened after Baghdad fell,” I threw in.

Winston huffed, “Hell, they didn’t plan ahead for anything in Iraq . . . anything, that is, other than what floral arrangements they’d create from all the flowers the Iraqis would be throwing at our troops.”

“They deliberately antagonized the rest of the world, making it certain that no nation, other than Britain, would offer us any real help during the occupation,” said Zach.

“And then, of course, there’s that small matter of allowing . . . no, encouraging the use of torture,” growled Winston.

Then something happened that had never happened before. Horace exploded.

* * *

Three-year-old Israa never knew that it was a shell fired from a M249 SAW, which found its way into her home three blocks from where Chester Lewis lay dying. She also never knew that the other soldiers in Chester’s convoy, having been panicked by the explosion of the IED, opened fire randomly. And even if she had known, it wouldn’t have meant much to her. She was still too young to understand that in war one doesn’t have to be a target to be a victim.

Israa understood simpler things — things like the absolute terror she felt at the frequent sound of gunfire and explosions. It had been that way since that night, back when she was only a year-and-a-half old, when the explosions seemed to go on forever, one after another after another, often shaking her house to the point she thought it would collapse.

She never knew, and now never will know, that people she had never met, and now never will meet, had given the explosions a name: They called them “Shock and Awe.” And she never knew, and now never will know, that far away, in a very different sort of a world, people had gathered around their television sets, some eating popcorn and other snacks, watching the bombs explode, saying things like, “Wow,” “Look at that one” and “Did you see that one,” almost like they were watching a fireworks display.

* * *

Horace slammed his fist on the table and shouted, “Enough! That’s enough, God damn it! Just shut up, okay?! Just shut the fuck up!”

Molly, passing by on her way to deliver a round of drinks, dropped her platter, sending it crashing to the floor. She just stood there, her month wide open, looking stunned. Everyone looked stunned. Horace is the one who talks the rest of us down from the ledges. He’s our rock, the ultimate father figure at a table full of father figures.

And there he was ranting like a wild man.

“I just don’t want to talk about it anymore!” He was still shouting. “I don’t want to spend another hour retreading, one more time, everything these morons have done wrong in Iraq . . .”

“It would take a hell of a lot longer than an hour,” quipped Winston.

Just why Winston thought this was a good time for a quip, is a bit of a mystery. He was mistaken.

“God damn it, do you think this is some kind of a joke?!” roared Horace. “You think it’s funny? People are dying, God damn it! They’re dying for nothing! For God damn nothing! Just like my son Lester died in Vietnam, for nothing! This time it’s Chester’s turn! Tomorrow it will be someone else’s son or daughter! But, hey, who gives a shit, Right?! It’s mostly just poor and middle class kids, right?! Kids like Chester, the nobody kid of two nobody parents! So who cares?! I mean, that’s why they call them cannon fodder, right?! So if you think it’s something to laugh about, Winston, well, as far as I’m concerned you can go straight to . . .”

Then, as suddenly as the outburst started, it stopped. Breaking off in mid-sentence, Horace buried his head in his hands.

* * *

When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 25 years. Contact Steven at [email protected].

© Copyright 2004, Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001

gloryhole moviesmovies nexxxstars nude movie femalenude movies teenparis movie download hiltonsample movies ejaculation femaleswallowing movies free cumbookworm free bitches moviesmovies sex interracialmovies boy

6 Responses to “Episode 29.1: The Reception Room For Heaven”

  1. Chuck Says:

    O.K. That brings me back to an earlier inquiry about what is “justice”? I got a response from Again that seemed to to mean that it could mean anything, depending on the group, that is–aconsensusus of a group at a given time. & to quote somebody whose name I don’t recall, “that which can mean anything, in fact, means nothing at all.” So if the consensus in my society says (this year,) that that adultry should be punished by stoning, that is just. But if in another society, or in the same society a few yers earlier or later, adultry is rewarded, that is also just?

    I guess I’m just obtuse, but I don’t understand just what justice means in a punishment sense.

  2. Again Says:


    I got a response from Again that seemed to to mean that it could mean anything, depending on the group, that is–aconsensusus of a group at a given time.

    i’m so sorry - and ashamed. Seems as if i need a translator…

    what i tried to say is that justice is a measurable/calculable state, a physical optimum - therefore indeed depending on the individual group, but also on physical laws - certainly nothing which can be a pure thing of consensus. Far from it! Actually, that consensus (i call it “buffer” because of its reality-absorbing power in large groups) is able to resist physics for a while by making the outsiders/the powerless pay the price of ignoring physics, but later or earlier physics/reality trumps all wishful thinkings - so in the end destroying the group, not a very efficient strategy, so certainly not a physical optimum securing survival (= justice)

    and justice and punishment don’t go together - at least in the theory/physics of high intelligence, because of a simple fact: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” - intelligence is the “conquest of the future”, giving an entity the ability to foresee developments. And because the survival instinct is an essential goal in any entity, the higher the intelligence the more capable to avoid harm - and punishment is harm. It needs the coherence of a large group to give no room for escape, but Nature doesn’t work like that in case of high intelligence, Nature uses the pleasure principle to convince her organisms…

    but i fear, that is not more understandable than the first time - i should stop talking ;-)

    on the other hand, i love discussions, so thank you very much, Chuck, to mention your interpretation of what i said - and excuse me, please

  3. Chuck Says:


    No need to apologize. I understand what you are trying to tell me. I’m working (kinda,) on a response, but I’ve been interupted so many times that I keep losing the thread. I’ll get back to you on it a little later this evening or tomorrow.


  4. Again Says:


    I’ll get back to you on it a little later this evening or tomorrow.

    would be glad, if you do so - because in times of globalization it’s more important than ever to be aware, that justice isn’t a luxury, a dream of crazy moralists - but simply the most efficient state of a group over a long time. Certainly you’ll never be able to calculate this exact state because of the myriads of variables to consider - but hey, we try to foresee the end of the universe, so why should we be afraid of that?

    we can only gain if we accept physics as foundation of our existence - because Global Warming proves well, how in-efficiently humankind acts nowadays. To be able to survive we have to significantly increase our long-lasting-overall-global-efficiency not just for a moment, not just for a single location, not just for the next Shareholder Meeting - not just for something, our alpha chimps are able to understand ;-)

    look at China - the western world is eager to exploit the Chinese slaves to “save some cents”, but we all have to pay a big price. Our money, our (lost) jobs are used to destroy our world faster than ever. Nowadays China is the biggest polluter…

    Holy Profit, bring us the Rapture and bring it soon!

    isn’t it somewhat easy to see, how justice and survival are linked together - sell justice and you sell your future

  5. Chuck Says:


    Let me start out by saying I’m begining to accept that the idea of “justice” is an abstraction that may never have a “definitive definition” because a standard of what is right and proper will shift from time to time and society to society. It is more like a chimera, constantly shifting 1st this way, then that–like a boat tacking as it sails into the wind, and (hopefully,) progressing towards vague distant shore, the general directio wherein we hope lies the realm of the moral–ethical foundation of justice. It will probably always be nebulous and shifting, a sort of situational ethics.

    O.K., that out of the way, here’s my problem/concern with your explanations. I don’t think laws and rule from one discipline can necessarily be applied to another, other than by analogy. Some may, others not. Neither societies nor human behavior follow the laws of physics, and so far as I can discern, I don’t see that they involve “high inteligence” other than in some science fiction. To foresee or predict the future outcome of an action might work most of the time in the hard sciences; (but where & when will that electron pop-up next? & in an ever expanding universe that seems to be expanding at an ever rapid rate, whatever happened to entropy in the sense of the degradation of energy to inertness?), but not in the moral–ethical–human realm wher justice resides. As to justice being “the most efficient state of a group over a long time”, so far cockroaches & sturgeon are some of the most efficient, if you go by how long they’ve lasted without appreciable change, & ants, & bees & cockroaches & etc. are succesful so far, but I don’t see efficiencey in their wandering trial error scavenging. Nor do I see justice. It might be justice from the point of view of Mother Earth, but I don’t see it in the human realm.

    Let me end this with a paraphrase of something I heard the other day that I hope you will take as humor: never ask a physicist or a philosopher their opinion on anything because they both know every thing, but they have no common sense.


  6. Again Says:


    now you had made me think…

    thank you!

    never ask a physicist or a philosopher their opinion on anything because they both know every thing, but they have no common sense

    and i never had heard such a polite and kind rebuttal of all what i say - hats off ;-)

    (but where & when will that electron pop-up next? & in an ever expanding universe that seems to be expanding at an ever rapid rate, whatever happened to entropy in the sense of the degradation of energy to inertness?)

    you hit the nail…

    it’s all about information and entropy - order and randomness. The not really well defined behavior of quantum particles depends also on that: quantum particles don’t have identities, you can’t differ one from another - there isn’t yet “information”, just “proto-information” - the behavior is repeatable action, but not identifiable, so you can’t have the “full information” about the process, so you are not able to foresee the next step, so you can only calculate “statistics” over all included particles

    the next is the simple conclusion, that since information isn’t in any action of our universe, this universe can’t be deterministic - because only the “informational processes” are deterministic - and if there are random parts of the universe, anything goes (i guess, that’s why physicists are so often “surprised” by Mother Nature ;-) )

    and the conservation equations? Don’t work in true randomness - one of my biggest Heurekas was the Casimir effect, where energy is created. Not being that familiar with the “cosmic inflation theory”, i guess, that could be a reason why a universe (including the masses/energies) can grow that fast …

    but because order is created by information (a special kind of process) it has to have a beginning and an end - that’s called “entropy”, when the flow of the informational process weakens by losing its coherence

    so far cockroaches & sturgeon are some of the most efficient, if you go by how long they’ve lasted without appreciable change

    exactly - and it worked, but that’s because their environment didn’t really change over the whole time. Now we have Global Warming and they won’t survive (except maybe of the ants ;-) )

    the problem here is the kind of information processing that species use - their efficiency is “known” by their DNA, their bodies, that’s passive information processing because it stores knowledge (the remembered information/processes) in hardware - advantage: reactions are fast, that’s why Being smart is not always a good thing in the evolutionary race”

    It might be justice from the point of view of Mother Earth, but I don’t see it in the human realm.

    since the human intelligence is based on active processing there are some basic differences. Think of the terms “information”, “intelligence”, “knowledge” or “power” - used everywhere from biology (cells) to psychology (humans) to techniques (programming) - the same patterns, different surfaces…

    but back to your “common sense” ;-)

    (active) information processing needs a strategy to detect information in the surrounding chaos - and there are three basic elements in any processing, since what you get from outside is nothing else than physics - electromagnetic waves, pressure, sounds, chemistry -, so you have to have receivers/sensors to accept the ongoing change outside, you must react to if you want to survive. And if you don’t want to be overwhelmed by that infinite staccato of signals (like an autistic person) you have to structure it and you structure it by kind and time. You sort the signals by comparing their attributes against each other at the same time and against themselves at different times. “If something looks like a duck and acts like a duck ==> it is a duck.” So you are able to create a “world”, a world of interacting particles, objects, persons. But that’s just a “first step” - you have to check it against your memory and against future events if your “snapshot of the current events/world at time x” is ok or if there are contradictions

    why i think that’s a good argument regarding “common sense”?

    because it explains how people are able to ignore commons sense, how they are able to believe in the strangest things - because the interconnection in time is “logic” - since change is not storable, the deepest nature of process can’t be understood/known/stored in memory, so each intelligence in every thinkable universe will never be able to understand time, only by the “workaround” of storing the series of measurable states, created by change. That’s why the “trick” to understand logic/cause->effect is simply to notice what happens at the same time (concurrence), because that might be originated by the same source/process. And that’s why “step 2″ - the check/contradiction - is so important, because all we know is always just “a probable world” - only a contradiction gives us safety, alas, it’s always negative, but it is the safety, that we were wrong.

    now what happens if you don’t like to check your own ideas or you are not able to or you forget that all you know is only a hypothesis? You connect things by concurrence without dissolving this “logical link” when a contradiction occurs

    your neighbor dies and a bird flies high? Your brain creates a connection because of the concurrence (yes, yours, too), but most people know (by memory) that birds fly mostly without people dying - on the other hand the Romans believed so strongly in the power of “auspices”, that until now that word is used to describe “guidance, protection, patronage and care”


    oh sorry, i’m talking too much, again ;-)

    so many people avoid opposition and disputes because of politeness or disinterest, so thank you, Chuck, to have replied, i appreciate your input very much

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.