Just finished watching Frontline on PBS. 'The Jesus Factor.' A respectful look at how Gee Dubbya is bluring the lines between chruch and state, but it still left me shivering on the couch. They mentioned how as governor of Texas, he stepped in to call state investigators off the backs of Teen Challenge, a Christian-based drug 'n alcohol addiction program. They failed to say why Teen Challenge had been targeted by state investigators: their residency programs weren't even meeting minimum state standards for safety. (For more info, read Molly Ivan's book, Bushwhacked).
Compare this to John Kerry who told the Vatican to "get stuffed" (he was more polite about it) as the pressure mounts to refuse U.S. politicians communion if they support abortion rights. Part of that "get stuffed" statement was the importance of separating church and state.
However, at least Frontline pointed out that all that money Bushie is pumping into faith-based initiatives have almost exclusively gone to Christian organizations. Not one non-Christian organization has received money despite applications. Plus, Ashcroft...*shudder*...and the sheer arogance in deciding that people against the U.S. are evil and god is on our side. Abe Lincoln must be rolling in his grave to see what his political party has come to.
And I'm sorry. I went to a Roman Catholic school. And the nuns, priests, hell, every religious-type person was very much against school vouchers and government funding for faith-based programs because:
1) Separation of church and state (this was a biggie)
2) If you take money from the government, then the government is within 100% of its rights to make you follow regulations you might not be hyped about following
Even so, Catholic schools are subjected to certain regulations as it relates to educational standards and there's no issue with that (or there wasn't) since the nuns thought it right and proper. Although, I gotta admit, these nuns were the kind of nuns that thought, on the whole, that Creationism was a pretty dumb ass idea and that the "young earth" theory should be taken out and shot like a rabid dog.
Heh. I gotta admit, those nuns did teach me how to think.
The second the credits rolled, I went and signed on the Kerry Campaign (http://www.johnkerry.com/ ) as a volunteer. Don't know what I'm gonna do yet, and it ain't like Kerry won't win Massachusetts, but damn it! I feel like I gotta do something more than vote for ABB (Anyone But Bush).
Dear god, I found my issue this election: keep your church out of my damn government.
Oh, gaaked from the Straight Dope (http://www.straightdope.com) Great Debates thread on the message board. AOL's got a "Presidential Match" generator where you answer questions and they tell you which candidates fall in line with your beliefs. Check it out here: http://www.presidentmatch.com/Main.jsp2?cp=main
In the interests of openness, this is what I got:
79% Dennis Kucinich
78% John Kerry
14% George Bush (the hell! how?)
Anyways...now that I'm done with my political rant for the week, a new Living History part. They're at the cemetery. YAY!
Observant!Faith! meets Creepy!Observant!Xander!
As someone on my test list pointed out: Poor Faith. Xander makes a comment like that while he's standing behind her, in the dark, on a steep set of stairs. They pick the damndest times to take a stab at honesty with one another, don't they? (Me: *HEEEEEE!*)
Up to Part 49 can be found here
Continued from here
Buffy’s eyes ached as she strained to catch Xander’s and Willow’s shadows in the group stealing across the lawn to the crypt. Part of her resented the fact that they were going on without her. Another part—a larger part—took unholy glee in reminding her just how many times she’d done the same thing without even looking back.
Kinda like how Xander and Willow weren’t looking back as they cautiously climbed the steps with their team.
But this is different than four-months-ago-to-the-day, right? She’ll see them again and they’ll talk about giant snakes with wiggy fears of walnuts and they’ll show her the grail and each time the story will get bigger and better and the danger will get more dire, but only in the re-telling.
Unholy glee voice-in-her-head just laughed.
For the millionth time, Buffy drew out the rough sketch and looked down at what she would have to face: a pile of dirt in the shape of a man. No eyes. No nose. No mouth. No nothing.
But it’ll be all right because these aren’t Turok-Hans and the First Evil isn’t laying in wait. These aren’t even everyday run-of-the-mill vampires.
Everything will be fine. Of course it will. And there’ll be happy endings for all, even for Catherine when she gets back and single-handedly defeats her big bad with her bestest friends at her side.
Best of all, no one will have to die for it.
Then something Andrew said before Dawn dragged him into the center of the grail retrieval team hit her. She’d fluffed it off as typical Andrew geek-speak, but right here in the dark it sounded too much like a prophecy:
Today is a good day to die.
She turned to watch the younger Slayers nervously check their weapons as Giles whispered last-minute instructions on how to grasp a sword or mace just so.
September 20, she thought, forcing thoughts of Spike, Anya, and the faces of departed Slayers-in-Training out of her mind. No one should have to die, but if die I have to, today is as good a day as any.
Faith stepped through the now-fixed door first and let her eyes adjust to the gloom. “Nope, nothing here,” she called over her shoulder as she sheathed her sword and slung the scabbard across her back. For the thousandth time she checked to make sure her two throwing knives were sheathed and securely strapped on each leg. She tried not to wish that she had the spring-loaded dealie Ruda wore on her right arm to throw into the mix.
“Too much to hope that they left?” Barbara asked as the others on the grail retrieval team streamed in around her.
“What are you worried about?” Lisa asked. “We’re not fighting the dirt men.”
Sally whistled as she looked around. “Someone needs to hire a maid.”
“Does anyone else notice that our open sarcophagus is now closed for business?” Xander asked. “The lid’s been replaced.”
“Guess they got that maid service, hunh?” Vi asked.
“Maybe our dirt guys shut it and fixed the door?” Faith suggested. “Makes sense if they don’t want anyone sticking their noses where they shouldn’t.”
“Gotta love that devotion to civic duty,” Robin remarked. “Okay kids, fun time over. Check weapons.”
The other four present-day Slayers did as Robin ordered, giving their swords a final look before sheathing them and arranging the various weapons into something a little more comfortable to wear. Ruda, by contrast, bounced around with a grin, looking completely at ease wearing all the weapons Faith remembered from when she first saw her. The silver pin on her coat seemed to giggle in anticipation in the dim light.
Xander slipped the band of the headlamp over his head and snapped on the light. He quickly looped the strap of his crossbow over his right shoulder and adjusted the quiver slung crosswise across his back. He checked the sheathe holding the throwing axe on his right thigh and said, “I soooo need to learn how to use my left hand better.”
Robin took up position by the door, his own headlamp already in place, with sword drawn while Charlie, Tikri, and J’Nal pooled around Catherine in the corner. Like their Cleveland counterparts, they were checking their weapons. Unlike their Cleveland counterparts, they did it with disciplined silence, although Tikri looked very nervous as she patted the dagger at her waist, her one weapon for self-protection.
“We ready?” Robin asked.
“How come you are all so calm?” Tikri asked. “I’m ready to throw up.”
“Do it over there,” Charlie pointed away from him.
“Okay, guys. Positions,” Xander encouraged while Willow slipped into his line of sight with Dawn and Andrew tagging behind. Unlike everyone else, including J’Nal, all three were unarmed and unencumbered save for the headlamps on Dawn’s and Andrew’s heads and the backpack on Andrew’s back.
Vi and Barbara braced themselves, leaning against the heavy, granite cover. When Robin gave the signal to the other team outside, they gave it a hard shove.
Faith breathed through her nose and kept a firm footing by standing in “mountain pose” as the first tremors hit, her handful of years in earthquake-prone California standing her in good stead. She noticed Xander and Willow, both life-long members of the shake-and-bake crowd, were already heading for the sarcophagus, moving as if the ground wasn’t moving at all. Everyone else stumbled a little, taken by surprise by the suddenness of the earth’s rebellion.
Robin recovered his feet and slammed the door shut just in time for Willow and Xander to reach the opening. While Willow peered down into the dark, Xander closed his eyes, gave his head a hard shake, and moved back a few steps.
Faith quickly joined Willow, jamming the band of her headlamp on her head. She toggled the switch and looked down. “Jesus,” she breathed. “That is one steep fall.”
“Unh-hunh,” Willow absently agreed. With one word, “Luminous,” Willow transformed herself into a walking flashlight.
Faith stepped back in surprise. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t like magic, just that the casual reminder of Willow’s hidden power caused a prickle of unease along her spine. It was too easy to forget that this chirpy, cheerful, red-headed chick could do more damage with a single thought than Faith ever thought of trying in her ‘the hell with the world’ phase.
“You look like Tinkerbell,” Xander joked as he moved forward to stand next to Willow. “Is there a single pore that isn’t lit up like Vegas?”
“I think there’s one at the end of my nose,” Willow giggled as she looked at her hands, “Wow. This is just…Wow.”
“See? On you it looks good,” Xander nodded. “If I lit up like that? People would think I went swimming in radioactive sludge. Electric blue washes out my complexion.”
Jesus. He’s not batting a fucking eyelash. Woman could tear him apart without getting her hands dirty and he’s calling her fucking Tinkerbell. Faith looked around. She noticed that Dawn and Andrew looked out-and-out terrified by the display. Even Robin and the other Slayers seemed as uneasy with the Witchy Willow reminder. Catherine’s group, by contrast, acted like it was just another day at the office while they fixed their headlamps in place and turned on their lights. Then again, being from the future, Willow’s light show was probably nothing big, Faith figured.
“Ready?” Robin asked with a hint of impatience.
“You first, just like we planned,” Xander jerked his head towards Willow.
“See ya at the bottom,” Willow agreed as Robin helped her over the side and set her on the top stairs. “Yeesh. This is going to be fun just getting down.”
“Take your time. We don’t need anyone getting hurt in the first five seconds,” Robin cautioned as everyone gathered round to watch Willow’s descent.
Faith noticed Xander peek down to watch Willow’s progress, but he again did that odd close-eyes-shake-head-step-back routine. His right hand clenched the edge of the sarcophagus so hard that his knuckles were white.
The hell? He’s not afraid is he? Faith wondered. Except it didn’t quite fit with what she knew about him. This guy plays with Slayers on a regular basis and manages to do his share of whup ass, so what’s the deal?
Faith could hear Willow’s muttering voice fade as she descended. If she didn’t know any better, she’d think that Willow was issuing a stream of swears that would make the world’s ears burn were anyone able to pick out anything resembling a word. After a long wait, Willow called up, “Okay. At the bottom. Be careful because the stairs aren’t so great. We need to file a complaint with the local disabilities commission because there is sooooo no wheelchair access.”
“You’ve been hanging around Xander far too long,” Robin shouted down while Xander stifled a laugh. The ex-principal turned to the rest of the group. “Okay, first me, then Catherine and her people, then the rest. Got it?” When he got silent nods in agreement, Robin sheathed his sword, pulled himself over the edge, and began his own descent.
Robin’s trip was silent, so when he called up Faith jumped at the unexpected intrusion of his voice. “Willow’s right. The stairs are tricky. We need to go down one at a time because one misstep, you’ll tumble right to the bottom.”
“And the last thing we need is to show our resemblance to domino-like things,” Xander shouted down.
“Right in one,” Robin’s voice floated back. If Faith didn’t know better, she’d think he sounded somewhat amused.
And so began the long process of the grail retrieval team descending into the darkness one-by-one and calling up their safe arrival to the next person.
Xander had fallen silent, occasionally looking down the opening, only to again back up and shake his head with eyes closed, as if he were overwhelmed with the very idea of walking down those stairs.
As the last of their team began the trip down below—baring Xander and Faith—the Slayer moved to Xander’s side. “You’re up next, Cyclops.”
“I’ll go down last,” Xander said.
“Unh, no. Gotta bring up the rear in case we get trouble of the dirt kind from behind,” Faith said. “Me superpowered chick, you not so much.”
Xander looked into the hole again before squeezing his eyes tight. “I’m going to be a real long time, so you waiting up here is…”
“What’s your deal?” Faith asked. “You ain’t nervous are ya?”
Xander shot her and angry glare.
“I didn’t call you chickenshit,” Faith hastily added, “But I can tell you’re not loving the idea…”
“The stairs are making me dizzy.”
“…of going down…What?” Faith asked as her brain finally caught up with what Xander said.
Xander clenched his jaw, absolutely hating to admit what he obviously felt he had to admit. “Vertigo. I get it when I’m up high and there’s nothing around for me to get my bearings.”
“You have a thing about heights?”
“Didn’t when I had two eyes.”
Faith wanted to smack herself. “Awww, shit. I totally forgot.”
“Says the woman who calls me Cyclops,” Xander dispiritedly said. “Look, I’ve learned to deal with regular stairs and sidewalk curbs by just taking my time and thinking through what I’m doing. And if I’m in a tall building, I just don’t go near the windows. But this,” he waved helplessly down the stairs, “I’ve got no handholds, nothing to focus on going down, a lot of shadows. Basically, I’m fucked. Only way I can see going down is crawling down backwards using my hands and feet.”
Faith couldn’t imagine a more undignified way of announcing a weakness. “No you don’t. You can use me.”
“Easy. I go down first, you stick close and put your hands on my shoulders and focus on my back. We’ll take it nice and slow.”
“Nope. We’ll get to the bottom with no trouble.”
“But not necessarily in one piece,” Xander protested. “Clutzy me with the bad one eye-hand coordination, remember? I trip, we go down, I die and you’re at least dealing with broken bones.”
“Not going to happen,” Faith said with more certainty than she felt as she lightly leapt onto the opening’s edge. “We’ll be fine. Just you watch. Besides, I feel you slip? I can just brace myself against the walls on either side and you won’t be going nowhere.”
Xander frowned a moment as he studied Faith’s face. “Okay. Worth a try.”
“Right,” Faith nodded. “Let’s get into position.”
“You ready?” Vi shouted up from the darkness.
“On our way. Keep your undies on,” Faith shouted back as she held out her hand to help Xander get over the sarcophagus sides and onto the first step.
It took some doing to get started, but they were soon picking their way down the stairs. Xander’s fingers dug into Faith’s shoulders in a painfully tight grip that made even the Slayer wince, so she bit her lip and concentrated on the sound of his crossbow ticking against quiver of crossbow bolts on his back. His warm breath tickled past her right ear as she quietly said, “step,” every time they moved down.
A few times Xander needed to pause and reorient himself as the angle and movement threatened to overwhelm his balance. Faith braced herself with her hands flat against the walls on either side while she sensed Xander bringing his breathing under control and adjusting the heft of his weapons. She suspected that had he been making the trip alone, he wouldn’t have stopped to give himself time and that he was only calling the short breaks simply because he was afraid of getting her hurt if they fell.
A soft word from him, and they were off again, once more picking their way downward, Faith’s rhythmic, “step…step…step,” the only thing breaking the sound of shifting weapons.
During one such pause, the last one before they hit the bottom in fact, Faith found the nerve to ask the question that had been nagging her since Willow cast her spell. “Hey, X-man,” she said quietly.
There was a pause before the whispered, “Yeah?”
“You and Willow. You guys are good buds, right?”
“Yeah.” The whisper revealed both a question and a suspicion.
“So that’s probably why you don’t freak like everyone else when she struts her witchy stuff.”
There was an uncomfortable shifting behind her accompanied by the sounds of weapons being adjusted, although she wasn’t sure if it was Xander reacting to what she said or because he was trying to regain his sense of equilibrium.
“I mean,” Faith tried to explain, “she’s got a lot of power and that shit can be scary shit.”
“Because she could wipe us all out with one word.”
A shiver went down Faith’s spine at the whispered acknowledgement that Xander knew, probably better than anyone else, what exactly Willow was capable of doing in bad circumstances. Shit. If Xander could say it…she’d heard vague stories about Willow doing some dark deeds with that power, but she didn’t want to think too much about it because that would be too much like looking in a mirror.
“Yeah,” she whispered back. “Something like that.”
There was another pause before she felt Xander’s chin resting on her shoulder, warm breath close, lips practically brushing her right ear, “Faith? Every single person in our happy little Slayer cult is capable of cold-blooded murder. All of us. Buffy. Robin. Giles. Andrew. Willow. You. Even me.”
Faith swallowed and stared straight ahead and tried not to think about the point Xander was trying to make.
“I learned that lesson the hard way, so I make sure never to forget,” Xander added quietly. “And neither should you.”
He suddenly pulled back and in a louder voice he said, “I’m ready now.”
Faith nodded with a shaky head and began, “Step…step…step…”
They didn’t pause again or talk beyond that until the reached the bottom.