A parable of Iraq

There were lots of kids in the boys school. One of them, Mike, was the largest and strongest. He wasn't afraid of anyone. Mike was generally a good boy, he tried to do what was right. Lots of other kids liked him, because he kept an eye out for them. He was also the richest, even though he didn't come from a rich family. He'd earned it himself, from working evenings.

But since he was the toughest and richest, there were some other boys who were jealous of his power and dominance; weaker kids didn't pay much attention to them, Mike was the most respected. In particular, Frank and Jeremy used to be some of the toughest kids in the school, until Mike came around. Even though Mike had helped them fight off bullies a couple of times, they were resentful that Mike was so strong and well-dressed.

The school adopted an "animal education program". In the program, the children were assigned various animals to take care of for the day. Mike was assigned some puppies. He loved his puppies, and played with them for hours, feeding them and gave them a bath. He bought nice collars, with name-tags for them. Other boys got chickens, kittens, ducklings, hamsters, mice, etc.

After some initial problems arose with the animals, a large group of boys got together and decided to form a council to watch over each other, to make sure that the animals were taken care of, and to help resolve problems that might come up.

Things were going fine, until one little boy, Oscar, came over and kicked one of Mike's puppies. The kick was intentional. The boy was jealous that Mike's puppies were so nice and clean, while his own mice had escaped his careless watch. The puppy was mortally injured, with a broken back, and although Mike tried and tried to help it recover, it died in his arms. The council got together, and had Oscar sent to the teacher for punishment.

Mike was understandably upset. He looked over toward the center of the schoolyard where Oscar had liked to play, and saw that there were other boys there who were mistreating their animals. In particular, a boy named Karl was given charge over some ducklings. Karl was chasing them around, instead of letting them follow him, like they would follow a mother duck. He was careless, and kept stepping on their little webbed feet. The council didn't seem to pay much attention to what was going on, and although Mike pleaded, he was ignored. The various boys on the council were busy with their own concerns.

Billy, a good friend of Mike's, saw what was happening too. When Mike decided it was time to do something about it, Billy came along. A few other kids followed along too. They started walking over to Karl.

Now, Frank and Jeremy, and some of the other council members, felt threatened. They thought that their only respect and power came from being on the council, and with Mike and Billy going off on their own, without permission from the council, the power of the council, and therefore their own power, was at risk. For this reason, they used the council to try and stop Mike's action. They started yelling, "Mike's starting a fight! Look, that goody-goody Mike is picking on littler kids! We're just trying to keep the peace, like the council is supposed to, but Mike isn't!"

They didn't really want Mike to lose the fight with Karl, but they did want Mike to show the council some more respect, give them their due process. They cared about Karl's poor ducklings, but not enough to do anything about it. They covered their guilty cowardice by saying to each other things like, "Mike just likes Karl's area better, that's why he's going to fight with him," and "Mike's just doing this to show everyone how strong he is."

So, Mike, Billy, and a few others got into a fight with Karl. They were much stronger than Karl, even though Karl had a knife, which he wasn't supposed to have. During the scuffle, some of the ducklings were kicked, even though Mike was being extremely careful about it. Most of the kicking was done by Karl, especially when he saw how much that upset Mike.

Who knows what will happen during and after the fight? Karl has some friends, will they all run over and harass Mike's puppies even more? The puppies wander around a lot, Mike can't really keep them all together. Maybe Karl will pull out his knife, and start doing some real damage. Mike has a knife, but he won't pull it out, only in self-defense. The council agreed to let Mike keep his knife, because they trusted him to be responsible.

Was it wrong for Mike to go and pick a fight with Karl? Is it the duty of the strong to protect the weak? What about when the protection is unpopular? What about when some ducklings get kicked, even killed?

You want my opinion? Things are going to get worse. Everyone will start pulling out their knives. This will get so bad that all the animals would be killed, if the teacher doesn't come and call a halt to the whole program.

by Eric Wadsworth, 4-7-2003. eric@wadhome.org