Sabina and the Peaceful Nation An Original Propaganda in Four Parts By Ness Blackbird
Part the Second: In which Sabina, Danny, Charlie and Marta get a clue
In Sabina’s dorm room, at one in the morning, with the world (so it seemed), coming down around their ears, the four friends swore a blood oath. “Never to give up, never to give in, never to give away our friends or our planet, to be friends while we breathe, to live for love and love for free.” Charlie had written it big on a pad of sketch paper and they chanted it together, and then they cut their thumbs. This turned out to be a bigger ordeal than expected, because Charlie was determined that just a little dot of blood wouldn’t do.
“You want it to be something you remember,” he insisted. He had an old straight razor from somewhere. He breathed deeply and cut into the top of his thumb, hissing with the pain. It started to bleed, and a fat drop fell on the paper. He rinsed off the razor in a glass of water and handed it to Danny.
Danny was sweating in the spring evening. “You sure you don’t have AIDS? We should probably sterilize it somehow.”
“Oh, come on Danny, I’m a virgin, remember?”
“Can you do it for me?” So Charlie took the knife back and cut Danny’s thumb, too, not quite as deep as his own. Sabina rinsed it and did her own, and offered to do Marta’s, but of course Marta would cut herself, and she cut maybe a little too deep. It looked a little scary. She hadn’t rinsed the razor. She dropped it casually in the water.
“OK!” she said, looking daringly at the others. “Let’s do it.” She held up her lacerated thumb. The others put their thumbs out. “Press them together!” urged Marta. “Let’s say it again,” and they repeated the oath.
“We are bonded now,” said Danny. “This night will be with us always.”
Their blood dripped onto the paper. That night, for the first time, Danny stayed with Sabina. It was difficult. He held her gently, but she shivered and tensed. “I feel like you’re a snake,” she whispered.
“Huh?” He picked up his head and looked down at her in the moonlight.
“Like you’re a snake and you’ve got me trapped against a wall.”
“Oh, God. I mean, maybe I should just leave you alone?”
“No, stay with me. I just…maybe you can just hold me?”
“Sure.” Danny was tall and skinny, but his arm was not uncomfortable. They stayed that way for a long time, and Sabina dozed. Danny stayed awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering. Her body was soft against him.
At breakfast, they found Marta arguing with Charlie.
“There’s nothing wrong with doing it that way,” Marta was insisting. “If you want to get something done, you want to get the word out, you need television. To get on TV, you need to get the TV station manager to agree. When you want something from someone, there are three ways to get it: fun, money, and fear. You start with fun, that’s drugs or sex –”
Danny and Sabina sat down. “What are you guys talking about?” asked Danny.
Charlie turned to him. “It’s about publicity. You know the television stations and the newspapers never print anything about the Peaceful Nation, and they always twist the issues and ignore facts we think are important, like election fraud, or the fact that there are now 5 million refugees from global warming-related flooding—anyway, we need publicity, to get our issues out there, and Marta says we just have to corrupt the TV station managers.”
“Marta! That’s crazy,” said Sabina.
“Not crazy,” said Marta. “Smart. How else you going to do it?”
“Well, they are supposed to show us the news,” said Sabina. “We can write to the stations and tell them our opinions. They should respond to that. Or we could buy ad time, I suppose.”
“Don’t make me laugh,” said Marta. “They don’t run our ads. Tried it.”
“It’s true they don’t listen to us,” said Danny. “But I don’t think there’s much we can do about it. More and more people are reading the Peaceful Nation News channel on the internet, I think we should focus on that.”
“Less than 20% of Americans have ever seen the PNN,” said Charlie. “We need to be on NBC, but the only way NBC will show us is if we blow something up—they’d love that, then we’d be terrorists. They’re owned by General Electric, which is a major military contractor, so anything they can do to bury us just helps them sell weapons. They just want to discredit us.”
“Bad publicity,” agreed Marta. “Don’t blow them up, just blackmail them. Nobody will know.”
“That’s not ethical,” said Sabina, and Marta snorted.
“What Peaceful Nation needs is results, not ethics,” she said. “Got to stop them before it’s too late.”
After the graduation party, they all ended up in Sabina’s room again, playing cards, drinking organic wine, and talking about the future. Charlie had landed a job in Washington D.C., interning with an alternative television station. Marta would work for her uncle, who she claimed was some kind of boss in the D.C. Russian Mafia.
“There’s a Russian Mafia in D.C.?” asked Danny.
“Sure. Very busy. My uncle is very important man.”
“Danny, don’t get her started,” said Sabina. “Two pair.”
“Four kings and queens,” said Marta.
“You can’t have four kings and queens, Marta,” said Charlie.
“Sabina and I are going to Israel this summer to help with the Penpal Project,” announced Danny.
“I thought your father was against it, Sabina,” said Charlie. “Are you finally getting ready to tell him off?”
“Well, I guess I’m ready to deal with him,” she said. “I don’t want to tell him off, but he’s going through a lot of changes, too, and I’m kind of thinking he won’t have the energy to argue with me. Marta, I think you win, you have three queens.”
“I can’t believe he thinks he can tell you what to do with your summer, Sabina. You guys have plenty of money, there’s no reason he shouldn’t send you,” said Charlie.
“I’m sure I can get him to help out,” said Sabina. “Our relationship has really improved since my whole crisis last term. He respects me more now. He’s going through a lot of changes. He’s finally going to therapy, and I think he’s found a girlfriend, though he won’t admit it, exactly. But it’s about time, mom died when I was fourteen.”
“I have a king and three queens, harem. Very happy king,” interrupted Marta. “Charlie will be DJ, reporter, Clark Kent, at WKRI, right Charlie? ‘Breaking news story, we go now to our man Charlie Chu!’”
“It’s just a little station, Marta,” said Charlie. “I’ll be mostly reporting local alternative stuff, helping with the computer animation, fetching coffee. I get to read the Community Calendar. I can’t believe you’re going to work for the Mafia. That’s so unreal. If you live through the summer, I’m sure you’ll end up doing something else. Something more valuable to the world.”
“Am going to be very important. Whole world will thank me,” said Marta. “Just not sure how yet.”
“The future is darkly,” said Danny poetically, “but we will make it through the glass. We four will remake the world with our friendship. All questions of method are secondary. Friendship is the key.”
Charlie snorted. “Love makes the world go round. You know? Haven’t you noticed the days getting shorter lately? More love, the planet’s spinning faster. Your deal, Sabina.”
At the airport, they stood together and repeated their oath, and Sabina and Danny went through security. They took off their Peaceful Nation buttons before they did.
The taxi dropped them off at the Jerusalem address they’d been given, a tumbledown building which had once been a school. Several children of obviously different nationalities played in front; all of them wore orange Peaceful Nation Security hats. An old ragged Arab woman sat on a park bench. Danny and Sabina approached the building a little nervously. It wasn’t clear which entrance to use. The old lady watched them with a beady eye.
“Can I help you?” she asked them with a rough Arabic accent. Danny started.
“Oh. Um, we’re looking for the Peaceful Nation Penpal Project?”
“Well, here you are.”
“Ah, thank you. We...” Danny was flustered. “I’m Danny and this is Sabina. Um…why are the children wearing Security hats?”
“My name is Amineh. They are protecting us. No one will bomb the building when there are young non-Jewish children playing.”
“Really? Isn’t that kind of, I mean—do their parents know they’re risking their lives like that?”
“Is it more of a risk for them to play here than somewhere else?” Danny felt that her eyes saw through his protective coloration. He felt himself flushing.
“Come on Danny,” said Sabina, “Let’s not get in an argument already.”
“They are powerful children,” said the old woman. “They know they are helping to make peace. Even young people can help to make peace. Like you.” She smiled at them, and Danny felt at once comforted and intimidated. She was laughing at him with her eyes.
“Come. I will show you around.”
The building was old and rambling, faced with stone like all Jerusalem buildings. Inside the narrow corridors held flaking paint and ancient stucco. The doors were too low for Danny. People went by them, chatting in Hebrew, Dutch, English, Spanish, Greek, Arabic, Japanese, and something Sabina thought was Tagalog. They were welcomed by two young Dutch women who giggled when they looked at Danny; by a Japanese man with two young children; by an American man in orange Tibetan prayer robes, and by an old Chinese couple, who spoke no English, but who bowed to them with humbling respect.
At dinner in the long dining hall, Amineh answered their questions. “So we just go up to people and find out if they speak English?” asked Danny. Amineh laughed.
“This is Israel. You don’t have to go to them, they will come talk to you. Don’t worry, you can do fine. Just listen to them. Israelis talk all the time. Listen, and they will help us.”
“What do we do if there’s another suicide bombing?” asked Sabina. “I mean, it’s great that there hasn’t been one in almost a year, but won’t everyone hate each other again if there is?”
“We have infiltrated the terrorist organizations,” said Amineh, “If there will be a bombing, we will know ahead of time.”
“Have you infiltrated the Israeli military as well?” asked Danny.
“It was harder,” said Amineh, smiling a little. “Intelligence is the key to everything. Remember.” Again, her eyes pinned Danny to his chair, but this time he knew what to say.
“We will remember, Amineh.” She just nodded.
They went out the next morning, led by Sven, a young Swede about their age. Their booth was in an open space in downtown Jerusalem, busy with pedestrian traffic. Behind them was a large, crumbling office building; there was a bazaar in its basement, selling Russian language books, rugs, dashikis, and cheap electronics from India. Sven was babysitting a half-dozen Swedish Security forces. The morning sun was already beating down hard. Sven shared an enormous bottle of sunblock with them.
Even before the cart was open, Israelis surrounded them and began arguing loudly in English and Hebrew. A small woman with blazing black eyes accosted Sabina.
“We can’t make peace with terrorists by writing emails to them! Why are you doing this?”
“My nephew was killed in a bus over there, you see? About three streets that way. He was on his way to school, and a suicide bomber blew up the whole bus. Do you think you can stop these people by writing to them?”
“They are people, too,” said Sabina, “not all the Palestinians are terrorists—” but the woman interrupted, too angry to listen. “These are not just people! They have—”
Sven was next to her. “We’re going to go look at the park,” he said. “Good luck.”
“Thank you,” said Sabina. A man with dark skin came up and started to talk with the angry woman, and they soon veered into Hebrew, leaving Sabina out of the discussion. She talked with a teenage boy who spoke broken English, taking down his email. After a while, the dark-skinned man turned back to her.
“We know we should help,” he said, “But we are afraid. And we do not forgive.”
“What are you afraid of?” asked Sabina. His face clouded.
“A lot of things. You say we make peace, that’s easy to say. But how do you know when you have peace? Who knows when the bombings will begin again? I want peace—we want peace. But I do not want Arabs in Israel, not in Jerusalem. I do not want to have to trust them. We do not forget.” He smiled sadly. “Unfortunately neither do they.”
Sabina felt a silence envelope herself and the Israeli, in the midst of several arguments and the nearby traffic. Looking into his eyes, she felt a sudden deep connection. When she spoke, the words seemed torn from her inmost parts.
“Please,” she said. “You can do it. You can trust.” She reached out and took his hand in hers. “We must make peace together, with the Arabs. There has to be a way. They are not so different from us.” The strange street, the strong accents, the jetlag—all had left her feeling disoriented, but somehow the feeling seemed to bring out her self-expression, rather than making her shy, as it would have in the past. I’ve died, she thought, and now I live again. I will not be silenced any more.
“I know they are not,” the man was saying, “That’s what I’m afraid of. Because if I was them—I would not forgive.”
But he signed the Declaration, and he gave his email, one of twelve they collected that day. When Sven and the children came back from the ice cream parlor (they had left a single Security Force, a little girl named Eva, who spoke no English, to protect the Americans) he was pleased.
“Very good work, you two. Twelve is very good for your first day.” The sign was down, so they could talk.
“We worked all day to collect twelve emails,” said Danny. “I’m exhausted.”
“Twelve is good,” insisted Sven. “Once they have committed, they will not drop out. We have over eighty percent retention here. The system will match them up with someone they can communicate with, it is very clever that way.” He smiled. “Those emails are golden.”
They spent the bus-ride back talking about their experiences. Sabina was absolutely alight with excitement over her successes.
“I want to be an organizer Danny,” she said. “This is what I want to do with my life. I’ll find a way to make a living if my father won’t help me. This is what makes life worth living. To be doing something, helping people get involved. I’ll never stop.”
“You’re better at it than me,” said Danny. “I only got four. Maybe it’s because you listen better than me.”
“Oh, don’t talk to me that way Danny. I don’t want to feel guilty today. We had a good day. Didn’t you have a good time too?”
“Sure I did. It was great to be talking to people. I’m just tired. It’s just that you’re better. There’s nothing wrong with it. You’re great—I’m just regular. You’ll be a great organizer. Someday maybe you can run for office in the Peaceful Nation. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Madame Prime Minister Sabina Levins.’”
Sabina looked at him wonderingly, like it was a new idea to her. “Maybe some day,” she said.
As it happened, Israeli television showed Charlie’s triumph. Charlie called Danny just in time, and they got everyone in the old school building together, packed into the recreation room to watch. The camera was panning across the big Peaceful Nation antiwar demonstration in front of the Capitol. They were seeing a rebroadcast of American TV, so of course there was no view from above. They couldn’t see how big the demonstration was. They knew there had been over a million people there, but from the coverage, there might have been a few thousand. Then the camera cut to the counterdemonstration. Large signs said, “Stop the Terror”, “No Peace Without Security”, “Down With Khomeni”. Hebrew language captions appeared below the signs on the screen. A reporter walked into frame.
“This is Luanna Jones with live coverage of the antiwar demonstration in Washington D.C.,” she said. “The organizers believe we should be pulling our troops out of Iran, as we’ve seen. But some people disagree. Let’s talk to the other side.” She went up to the young Asian man who appeared to be the spokesman for the group.
“Can you tell us a little bit about your demonstration here, sir?” she asked. “It looks you’ve had a turnout of a couple of hundred. How do you feel about that?” As the camera moved to the spokesman, Sabina and Danny gasped. It was Charlie!
“Actually, Luanna, the turnout has exceeded our expectations. It’s over 1.8 million already, and there are still people coming.”
“Really?” asked Luanna, looking surprised. “Your counterdemonstration has over a million people?”
“Oh, this isn’t a counter-demonstration, Luanna,” said Charlie, smiling. He raised his hand, and all the signs turned around to show the words “Peaceful Nation” with the familiar dove-and-scales logo. “There actually IS a small counter-demonstration, but it’ll take you quite a long time to find it with 1.8 million of us demonstrating here.” The camera moved to Luanna’s unsettled face. She obviously didn’t know what to say. Then, inexplicably, the camera point of view moved upward. As it went higher, they could see farther and farther across the mighty square in front of the Capitol building, crowded with countless demonstrators. It turned around to show even more demonstrators, revealing the scene for what it was: one of the largest gatherings in human history. The room broke up in wild applause. A Hebrew-language reporter was discussing what had happened, but no one could hear him.
“How the Hell did they get that camera shot?” asked Danny later. “That’s just impossible. There’s no way it could have gone out on American TV. I don’t even see how it transferred to the aerial view so smoothly.” At that moment his phone rang. It was Marta.
“You were right,” she said. “Couldn’t corrupt station manager. He was some stupid Christian. Had to hack into broadcasting system. Computer-generated images of demonstration.”
“You mean that wasn’t real?” asked Danny.
“No, Danny, it was real. We showed the right number of people in image. But we have no helicopter, we had to generate it.”
“Marta, that’s illegal, it’s…it’s…”
“Is brilliant. I know. But next time they will be ready. We will have to work harder. First time is easiest. Next time maybe we find a way to bend the station manager.”
Read Part 3 of this story in the next issue of Alternatives Magazine (Issue 32, Winter 2004). Part 1 appeared in issue 30, Summer 2004, and can be found at www.alternativesmagazine.com.
Ness Blackbird lives in the Portland, Oregon, USA district of the Peaceful Nation. Since he realized that the “USA” is an outdated concept (a fact which has been understood by multinational corporations for some years), he has been devoting his time to global democracy. Ness is the webmaster of peacefulnation.org, which makes free online systems for nonprofits. Please visit the website and become a member.
Ness Blackbird, President, Willow Mountain Consulting, inc., 503 281-0236, [email protected]
Please sign the declaration of the peaceful nation at peacefulnation.org.