Sovereign snicker

The greatest nation on earth gets its comeuppance

Issue: "Every law counts," Dec. 23, 2000

He who sits in the heavens," Psalm 2 reminds us after speaking of the scheming and conniving that this world's leaders and politicians typically resort to, "will laugh."

So I can't help wondering right now, with all the remarkable ineptitude and confusion we've witnessed since Nov. 7, if that quiet reverberation we hear in the distance might not be the sound of God's chuckling. God knows He has a right to do so.

Jehovah, of course, doesn't need to quote Shakespeare. But if He ever condescends to do so, He might right now be musing over the poet's sad exclamation (Shakespeare, don't forget, was quoting from the Roman politician Seneca), "What fools these mortals be!" Indeed, if all this hadn't happened in November and December, it would seem very much like a midsummer night's dream.

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But what human can deny the sense in which the great God of heaven has been tugging on the leash that holds us all, prompting and maybe even scolding us gently as He says, "Children, children!" No one other than such a supreme sovereign, totally in control of every tiny detail, could have orchestrated so vast and complex a scenario as has entranced us all now since Election Day.

For starters, it's not hard to imagine God's saying: "These folks think they're so smart. Let's see what they do with half a dozen close elections. In New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Washington, I'll make it so tight they really have to sweat it out. Then, in Florida, I'll reduce the margin to historic lows-and we'll just watch how they deal with it."

How they dealt with it, of course, is one for the history books. But don't let the historians ignore the sense of humor God displayed when He sent the proud media know-it-alls into the ditches of embarrassment on election night. "We know what you don't know!" the networks had proclaimed in their god-like arrogance, confirming way too early in the evening that Florida was headed for the Gore column. But no, hardly humbled by their error, they raced back into the fray only to make still another big mistake-announcing with confidence early in the morning's wee hours that now they really did know what-oh horrors!-by breakfast time they would have to recant still again. God had a lot of company laughing at all the discombobulated media folks.

Was there also a wry grin about the grieving state of Missouri? Who could have imagined a sophisticated electorate actually deciding to give a majority of their votes to a dead man so that his widow might go to the U.S. Senate? But maybe God just saw Missouri as a parody of what was happening in the senatorial race in New York.

And talk about a mathematical teaser! How about the tricky numbers swirling around that Senate chamber? It's a 50-50 split with Dick Cheney casting all deciding votes, unless the Gore-Lieberman ticket wins, in which case Dick Cheney's party controls the Senate 51-49, unless Al Gore casts some crucial deciding vote before he leaves office on January 20. Go figure-if you can. No mere mortal could have concocted that one.

Nor could a human writer have spun a script where it was conceivable that a blood brother of one of the candidates for president might find himself signing into law the very legislation needed to get his brother into office. I think God smiled when He ordained that historic wrinkle.

And all of this in just one election cycle.

The big one, though-the one calculated to produce a sort of celestial belly laugh, and I don't think that's irreverent-was the one that tied us up for weeks on end. Here we were, the world's greatest nation. The nation that casually now catapults men and women into space, that splits genes, that talks incessantly on cell phones, that performs complex surgery in utero. We're the nation that in just a few weeks' time moves a half-million person army halfway around the world to the deserts of Arabia, just because our oil supply is threatened. We are something.

But we don't know how to count.

We go to vote for the man who will lead us in all this greatness, and we don't even know how to count. It's a pretty basic skill set for a civilization-and now we're forced to admit we haven't mastered something even that simple. This piece of paper goes in this pile, this piece in that pile, and this piece-but, oh my, this kindergarten assignment is so confusing.

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