Waiting for God

It didn’t rain that day, and the sky was blue, the snow was scarce, and the people were all wrapped in flags and hats that shone with colours. After the …

It didn’t rain that day, and the sky was blue, the snow was scarce, and the people were all wrapped in flags and hats that shone with colours. After the opening of the Games, I walked among the crowd and out of the arena where it had all happened. In the midst of all these cheering people, I heard a man in rags telling his friend who, among the many choices of food available in this vast land, held a turnip in his hand:

Man in rags: I am not against flag-waving as long as the act is confined to an arena and the waver of the flag is not leading a troop of young men to war. A harmless nationalism, confined to an Olympic challenge might, in a sense, channel the hostility between nations and transform it into a civil competition, a game that could be watched by many and shared globally, and undoubtedly benefit few local, unspectacular contractors and inconspicuous businessmen.

Man with turnip: I am hungry.

Man in rags: What I am worried about is the evocation of a particular unnamed God from a pool of many available choices of deities. One should take note that on February 12, at the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics, John Furlong, the Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, ended his speech with an unprecedented “God bless Canada!”

Man with turnip: Expand, expand!

Man in rags: I was curious to know which God this man was evoking.

Man with turnip: I wasn’t doing anything.

Man in rags: After some mental exercises, I have come to the conclusion that, in this particular context, the race can include many candidates, Zeus, Yahweh, Thor, and maybe Ra and his affiliates.

Man with turnip: Pooh! I’d do as well myself… with a little practice.

Man in rags: In my opinion, and to be fair to the creators of the Games, it should be Zeus. But then Zeus is not much of a “blesser,” especially without a direct offering of animals and incense, and Yahweh, on the other hand, I suspect that he has a long history of favouring his own team. As for Thor, no one has seen him for hundreds of years. And Ra, as we all know, would be more inclined to attend a cricket game than a curling match.

Man with turnip: Repented what?

Man in rags: But maybe Mr. Furlong meant the Christian God, the same God who is regularly evoked in the same manner by our neighbours to the south. Maybe Canada, with its great history of multiculturalism—much like the Roman Empire, which adopted some of their neighbours’ Gods—has also adopted a foreign, omnipotent being to be call our own. Maybe all that might explain how the USA miraculously won the most medals in the Games and how Canada, as a reward for its new conservatism, conversion, and aspirations for a unified God between nations, was blessed with an unusual number of gold medals.

Man with turnip: I’d rather he’d dance, it’d be more fun.

Man in rags: All of which, consequently, eliminates the possibility of Allah being invited to do the Blessing, a conclusion confirmed by the low participation of the Islamic countries as well as by their pauperized medal showings. But wait a minute! How about the aboriginal Gods? After all, they are the indigenous Gods of this land. True, traces of their pantheistic beliefs were not neglected but were, in fact, celebrated in many corners of our Hellenistic Games of the North. One should also mention that the Opening of the Games presented some impressive spectacles: the blueness of the ice, references to the glorious northern lights, and a convincing “Hallelujah” performance.

Man with turnip: What is he waiting for?

Man in rags: All this could only have been attributed to the work of intelligent design, were it not for the industrial aesthetics of a reluctant mechanical torch that stood like an homage to the work of Sergei Eisenstein.

Man with turnip: I only like the pink ones, you know that!

Man in rags: Now that the Games have been played, and the instrumentality of God has been publicly acknowledged, undisputed by Canadian journalists, or Scandinavian caricaturists for that matter, and now that our Prime Minister has proudly waved to the masses and bowed his head and waited in anticipation for that celestial touch of approval from above, while prophetically, diligently, silently celebrating yet another victory over the secular values of many Canadians and many participant nations, the big question remains: which God was he waiting for?

Man with turnip: We are not caryatids!

Rawi Hage
Rawi Hage is a Beirut-born, Montreal-based writer. His first novel, De Niro’s Game, won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award. He is also the author of Cockroach, Carnival, and Beirut Hellfire Society. His first short story collection, Stray Dogs, was published in March.
Seth is a Canadian cartoonist best known for his series Palookaville and his mock-autobiographical graphic novel It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken. He is the subject of the 2014 documentary film Seth’s Dominion, which received the grand prize for best animated feature at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. He is also a magazine illustrator and book designer, perhaps best known for his work on the complete collection of Charles M. Schulz’s classic comic strip Peanuts.