I was interviewed about Prepared for Rage this morning by a very nice woman named Diana, which interview is to be broadcast on the approximately one thousand (my editor said) radio stations served by Westwood One continually for a month. I’m told this is a satellite broadcast heard all over the West Coast, so everybody listen up and tell me how coherent I sound. Does it make you want to rush out and buy a copy, huh, does it, huh?
Diana asked me a question I’ve been thinking about off and on all day: What did I want the reader to take from the book, what did I want the book to accomplish?
I hadn’t thought about it in quite those terms, and I stuttered and stumbled around trying to come up with a decent answer. I’m a storyteller, I’m the gal sitting around the fire with a bowl in her hand, telling stories and hoping to get a few coins in that bowl before everyone turns in for the night. I want to make you laugh. I want to make you cry. I want to scare the bejesus out of you, and if it makes you think a little bit, too, that’s just gravy.
But I realize there’s something else, too, something that reveals an overweening conceit on my part to imagine an effect far beyond the just deserts of my little book, and it’s this: My villain is the direct result of decades, hell, centuries of gunboat diplomacy, of every president needing his own war. Nothing we think we can’t make better at the point of a gun.
Well, what if instead of spending $1.6 trillion (the most recent estimate I’ve seen) in forcing democracy on Iraq from above, we sidled up to guys like Saddam Hussein or [insert dictator of choice here] and whispered seductively into their ear, “You know a way to make yourself look really good? Let us come in and build a children’s hospital over here. We don’t have to say we did it, you can take all the credit.”
And then a little while later we whisper, “You know, you need more doctors and nurses to staff that hospital, why don’t you let us build a medical school? You don’t have to say we did it, you can take all the credit for it, won’t cost you a dime, no problem.”
And then a little later we whisper, “You know, if more of your kids knew how to read, write and add, you’d get a better bunch of students for that medical school. How about we built an elementary school over here so that when they grow up you’ve got a crop of literate students for the medical school?”
And then a little later we whisper, “Lot of people working in the hospital and the schools, how about we put in a little subdivision right next to them? We’ll throw in water and sewage.”
And then a little later we whisper, “You know, sure would be easier for everyone to get around if we built a road connecting all of those places.”
This is the long view. It would take years, decades, a century, more to accomplish, but I can see two big benefits right off the bat:
One, we wouldn’t bankrupt ourselves doing it, and
Two, everybody who isn’t an American wouldn’t hate us and want to kill us when we were done.
And, oh yeah, no one would have to die.
Yeah, that’s what I want, for Prepared for Rage to start a world-wide impetus to prepare for peace. Akil’s life would have been significantly different if this had been the case. Of course there wouldn’t have been any book then, but I think I could have borne up under the burden of writing something else.
Well, what the hell. It’s a nice thought, anyway.