Friday Night Story


     “There will always be men with bombs, Mr. President, but I hope there will come a time when heads of state no longer believe they need them.” He lowered the letter. The President uncrossed and recrossed his legs.
     “I don’t know why you had me read this, sir.” The President folded his hands, and sighed like a father about to explain something important but plain to his son.
     “He says people will scrutinize our presidencies, but what he doesn’t understand is, they already do. And most of it is just white noise; it has to be, for a man to think clear day to day. But sometimes, in reflection, I wonder about things, about the leader I’ve become and the decisions I make.”
     “He makes some interesting points.” The President’s eyebrows raised. “He even makes a few concessions. How are you going to respond?”
     “Respond? I’m not going to respond. He doesn’t even attend to the question of his nuclear program.”
     “The letter isn’t about the nuclear program. It’s bigger than the nuclear program. It raises important questions about governing the world, and about all of our places in the system, and about God and the fact that Allah is the same as the God of Abraham.”
     “He questions the legitimacy of Israel.”
     “Yes, he does. And he’s wrong, sir. Uprooting the Israeli people now is just as unconscionable as uprooting the Palestinians was to begin with. But if you don’t engage him, it doesn’t matter. If you won’t speak to him, you can’t hope to change his mind. It’s been nearly thirty years since the heads of our countries spoke. His reaching out to you is historic.”
     “It’s manipulative. And opportunistic.”
     “It’s politics, but it’s also an opportunity, sir. If even a fraction of his sentiment is genuine, he’s saying he wants to help you change the world.”
     “If he’s not going to discuss his nuclear program, there’s nothing to discuss.”
     "The letter, it’s a form of da'wa. It's considered to be part of the act of teaching, not dissimilar to evangelism." The President shifted uneasily.
     "That man hasn't anything to teach me."
     "He claims the Holocaust didn't happen, couldn't have happened."
     "He might be a little bigoted and he certainly isn't perfect, but we shouldn’t refuse diplomacy based on the imperfection of ambassadors."
     “I’m not going to let them have nuclear capabilities.”
     “They don’t want weapons. And even if they secretly do, you can take steps to prevent it, but you can’t forego the opportunity to sit down with them just because you suspect them.” Sam was pacing across the room.
     “I can, and that’s what I’m going to do. I wanted you to read the letter, because you’re not just my bodyguard; I consider you a friend. But this talk… it makes me nervous, Sam. Makes me question where your loyalties lie.”
     “I love my country, sir. I’d kill or I’d die to protect the things I believe in. So what does it say when I find myself agreeing more with the man who wrote that letter than my own President?” Sam walked behind the President’s chair.
     “I think it means you should take the night off, Sam. Sleep in in the morning. We’ll get you reassigned someplace less provocative. Leave your ID with the guard at the gate.”
     “Good night, sir.” Sam said breathlessly, as he thumbed the safety off his sidearm.

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