Tagged war

“Ditto goes to school” (XXVI)

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Shall we read page three of The Children’s Story? said Ms. Johnson. Oh yes, said Virginia, I want to know why the teacher and children are afraid. Very well, said Ms. Johnson, page three says:

The children rustled, watching the teacher, wondering what possessed her… Johnny looked away from the door and watched with the other children. He did not understand anything except that the teacher was afraid, and because she was afraid she was making them all worse and he wanted to shout that there was no need to fear. “Just because they’ve conquered us there’s no need for panic-fear,” Dad had said. “Don’t be afraid, Johnny. If you fear too much, you’ll be dead even though you’re alive.”

We still don’t know why they’re afraid, said Virginia. No, we don’t, said Ms. Johnson. I don’t like to be afraid, said Virginia. Neither do I, said Ditto. Maybe that’s why Johnny has so much hate, said Virginia. Why? said Ms. Johnson. Because he doesn’t like to be afraid, and he’s angry at the person who’s making him afraid. Are we sure it’s a person? said Ms. Johnson. It says “they” conquered, said Virginia.

Who are they? said Ms. Johnson. I don’t know, said Virginia, but they must be bad if they conquered. Is conquering bad? said Ms. Johnson. That depends if you’re a conquer or a conquered, said Virginia. A “conqueror,” said Ms. Johnson. “They” could be another kind of animal, said Ditto. Like what? said Ms. Johnson. Any kind of animal that’s different from them, said Ditto, like a herd of rhinoceri. “Rhinoceroses,” said Ms. Johnson. Or a swarm of bees, said Ditto, or a school of piranhas. What’s a piranha? said Virginia. A piranha, said Ms. Johnson, is a freshwater fish with an insatiable appetite for meat. Insatiable? said Virginia. Impossible to satisfy, said Ms. Johnson. Oh, said Virginia.

Why don’t you like to be afraid? said Ms. Johnson. Because, said Virginia, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But something good might happen, said Ms. Johnson. But it might not, said Virginia. We fear the unknown, said Ditto, like Hamlet. Hamlet? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, my parents and their friend Blurtso staged a play called “Hamlet” last year. What does Hamlet say? said Ms. Johnson. He says, said Ditto, that he would rather stay with something familiar that doesn’t make him happy than take his chances with something unfamiliar. Something unfamiliar? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto. Like what? said Ms. Johnson. Like death, said Ditto. Are you afraid of death? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto. And you, Virginia? Yes, said Virginia.

Do you think Johnny is afraid of death in the story? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, or something worse. What’s worse than death? said Ms. Johnson. No one can say, said Ditto, until they know what death is. So it might not be bad? said Ms. Johnson. It might not, said Ditto, but we don’t know, so we create nightmares to fill the unknown. Is that what Johnny’s dad is telling us, said Ms. Johnson, when he says, “If you fear too much, you’ll be dead even though you’re alive”? Yes, said Ditto.

Have you ever heard of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? said Ms. Johnson. No, said Ditto. He was a president of the United States who said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” What does that mean? said Virginia. It means, said Ditto, that the worst thing to do is be afraid. Why? said Virginia. Because when you’re afraid, said Ditto, you’ll do anything to stop being afraid. Do you think it’s easy, said Ms. Johnson, to frighten people into doing what you want them to do? Yes, said Ditto, all you have to do is convince them something unknown will happen if they don’t.

“Bonny tells a bedtime story”

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Would you like to hear a bedtime story? said Bonny. Oh yes! said Ditto. Oh yes! said Virginia. What’s it called? said Ditto. It’s called, said Bonny, “Enough is Enough.” That’s a strange name, said Virginia. Yes, said Ditto, a very strange name. It’s a story about a little donkey and a little girl, said Bonny. Named Ditto and Virginia? said Ditto. Yes, said Bonny. Oh boy, said Ditto, I can hardly wait! Yes, said Virginia, please tell us! Very well, said Bonny, it goes like this:

Once upon a time there was a donkey named Ditto. Ditto lived in a castle on the edge of a river. The castle was ruled by a king named Rupert. Across the river was a castle and a king named Richard. The river that separated the two castles was wide and black. It flowed from the remains of a forest that was deep and green.

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The two castles made enormous demands on the land. They consumed wood from the forest, water from the river, and every kind of fruit, vegetable and animal they could eat. They consumed so much that soon they would have nothing left, but they couldn’t imagine living any other way. Their life seemed as natural to them as the contaminated air they breathed, and the contaminated land they worked.

Now, Ditto was a mischievous donkey who liked to wander off. One day, when he was wandering, he came to a bridge that crossed the river, and half-way across he met a girl named Virginia.

“I’ve got to go home,” said Virginia.
“So do I,” said Ditto.
“King Richard closes the bridge at dusk,” said Virginia.
“King Richard?” said Ditto. “You mean King Rupert.”
“No,” said Virginia, “I mean King Richard.”

Ditto had never met someone from the castle of King Richard and Virginia had never met someone from the castle of King Rupert. But though Virginia had been taught to hate everyone from the castle of King Rupert and Ditto had been taught to hate everyone from the castle of King Richard, Ditto couldn’t hate Virginia and Virginia couldn’t hate Ditto, because they had already begun to like each other before they remembered they were supposed to hate each other.

King Rupert and King Richard hated everything about each other, even though they were exactly the same. They hated each other because they each wanted all of the land and all of the water and even all of the air. Because neither one ever had enough of anything. They were insatiable. They ate so fast that they didn’t taste their food, and they were in such a hurry that they never enjoyed anything. They could never have enough, and what was worse, they had been so unsatisfied for so long that they both believed there was no other way to be.

Sometimes the peasants got angry and restless and began to complain. And whenever they did, the Kings would hold a jousting tournament to distract them, or they would rekindle the war with the enemy castle, and then the peasants would turn their anger on the enemy castle and forget for the time being to hold their own king accountable.

Both Ditto and Virginia knew that they would be punished if they were found playing together. The only place they could play and not be seen was in the woods, so, with some trepidation, they began to play on the fringes of the forest. One day when Virginia was chasing a butterfly, and Ditto was following, the butterfly flew so deep into the forest that Ditto and Virginia became lost. Ditto and Virginia were very scared when they realized they were lost.

They began to realize that they didn’t need a big castle and they didn’t need the excess. They learned the lessons of the forest of Enough is Enough.

“We should return to our castles and teach them all that we’ve learned,” said Virginia.
“Yes,” said Ditto, “and we could plant trees on the land and clean up the river.”

And so Ditto returned to the castle of King Rupert and Virginia returned to the castle of King Richard. Ditto told King Rupert all that he had learned in the Forest of Enough is Enough, and Virginia told King Richard all that she had learned. As soon as King Rupert heard what he heard and King Richard heard what he heard, the two kings called an immediate truce to their fighting and held a secret meeting deep in one of the rooms of the castle of King Rupert.

The next day King Rupert announced that he had encountered a threat even greater than King Richard, and King Richard announced he had encountered a threat even greater than King Rupert, and that King Rupert and King Richard were going to unite to overcome this new threat. And the next day the armies of King Rupert and King Richard charged into the remains of the forest of Enough is Enough and razed it to the ground.

“Now,” said King Rupert and King Richard in unison, “we can get back to hating each other and consuming what we want to.”