Essay

A Man in a Coffee Shop Said [Flash Fiction]

I heard a man in a coffee shop in Brooklyn where I was having breakfast. I was at my table with my journal, as usual, going everywhere I go with pen and paper. He was a man not so unlike any other man; he was unlike every man. Do you need to know more about this man, what his name is–I do not know. What is his ethnicity, his race, his religion? What could they tell you? I have asked before in other contexts, in other stories, what do you really need other than what he has said. He was talking to friends. I was at another table in the next booth from them, one farther from the entrance. Do not imagine that this is an anomaly; nor should you imagine that you would need to be one of the right wing nuts of America to think somewhat along the lines of this man. These opinions are growing, but then so does fungus and cancer; as do appeasement and weakness.

Why do we imagine that fighting ISIS is any different than fighting Nazism? He asked. I could have asked the same question, although I did not.

Why do we imagine that there are not millions of Muslims sympathetic to the cause of ISIS although they themselves do not take up the cause with guns or knives or heinous acts of barbaric terrorism? He asked. I wonder how many other Americans wonder the same?

He said, The Nazis had sympathizers in all countries, collaborators in all occupied countries, as well as nations that were its allies. This was true, is true, as facts of history are true even when they were true.

He continued, There were Germans who were not Nazis Party members who supported the Nazis, and plenty of Germans who were not Nazis without Nazis ideology who felt a patriotic duty to serve Germany. Yes, indeed, as there are men everywhere all of piece ready to serve.

Why do we assume the same is not true for Muslims? He asked. The man not so unlike other men asked this and other questions. Should we be asking the same? Should we entertain the same. Should these questions be entirely ignored?

Obama is wrong about what we are, he said, about who we are–he’s with them, he said. The others grunted along in agreement. You could feel the swell if you were at my table where I was listening with pen and paper in my journal, always with my journal jotting down what I hear, commenting sometime on what I hear, this not exactly directly from my journal, the dictation serving the purpose of prompting me to remember more correctly, or fill-in more accurately–this is a short story, after all.

We should not let refugees from Syria into the country, he said. Everyone responded, No way. Let’s not be fools for Obama’s Muslim agenda, the man said. He did, he said, Obama’s Muslim agenda.

He paused.

Why do we assume the same is not true for Muslims everywhere in the world, to serve the spread of Islam, he said.. There are Muslims in sympathy with ISIS’s greater war on the west although they do not join or fight, he said. Why do we assume that the average Muslim does not feel the same allegiance to Muslim Jihad as average Germans did to serve in the Nazis war machine, or at least rhetorically from his kitchen table, he said. With each sentence paced for response and agreement. He got it.

He paused.

Nazis and Jihadist are one and the same evil, he said. We would quarantine people if there was a possibility of the spread of disease, but then I didn’t like how Obama was handling Ebola, so why should we quarantine people politically to make sure they are not terrorists moving into the country posing as refugees. The man said this with calm conviction.

Did we hesitate to bomb Germany?  He asked. Why for nearly two years has Obama hesitated in dealing correctly with ISIS?  He asked. It is not because Obama is Muslim that he has put Muslim enemy lives ahead of those of lives in the west, is it? He asked. Everyone at the table responded with laughs of recognition and agreement.

We could have–we should have been bombing their clear and discernible positions and territory with more than the current fury, and that should have started more than a year ago, he said.

 I’m sorry, but Obama does have to prove his loyalty to the United States clearly to me. He needs to act like a defender of freedom and a protector of the Constitution–he needs to be Commander in Chief, he said.

I do not know if I agree. I do not know if I disagree. I do know that we need to have more caution with Syrian refugees than Obama or Cuomo or De Blasio seem willing to spend.

It is not their lives that they are risking, the man said  when someone mentioned that Obama, Cuomo and De Blasio support resettlement of Syrian refugees.

I am asking for more caution, better and more stringent screening, deeper background checks. It’s not a religious test, but a test of good sense. Turkey has detained 8 persons who they suspect are ISIS posing as refugees. France knows one of the bombers in Paris did pose as a refugee.

Why does Obama play with people’s lives?  He asked.

Is it . . . because the enemy are Muslims and so is he[?] The man in the coffee shop speaks as if he were on a podium to a larger audience than the three friends he has at the table with him.

How many coffee shops are there in America?

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