On a hill nestled between greater hills, in a cleft of the hill's rocky south face, lived a colony of mastiff bats. Each year after the snow melted from the mountains around them, the bats bore their children. Mothers nursed the young in a protected nook of the colony. Fathers brought back food for the mothers - usually moths, birds, lizards, and pieces of fruit foraged from the forest floors.
One spring, the smallest of the children found herself being pushed around by members of the colony. Other young ones would not give her space to rest. Her parents were gentle souls and felt ashamed by her complaints. They did not want a bullied child. On the other hand, they were not willing to confront the parents of larger children.
"Don't yell," they told her. "It excites the bigger ones. Ignore your bullies and they will go away."
The next evening, her parents headed out to hunt. Other young bats pushed the smallest one. When she didn't respond, they raked her with their wing claws. It hurt. Frightened by the sight of her own blood, she fought back. But there were too many. She fled and took shelter in the hanging moss outside of the nursery. She emerged only after her parents returned and called for her.
When she told them what had happened, they said, "You must not strike back. Anger begets anger. Violence begets more violence."
Since she didn't know how to stop the violence, she started to avoid the other children. During times when both of her parents were gone, she hid in crevices, or behind sleeping children, or in the hanging moss. There weren't many places she could go. Each time the bullies found her, they teased her, raked her wings, or bit her ears.
Only when she nursed with her mother did she have peace. In those times, she dreamt of flying. She longed to join her father in freedom. She stretched her wings as often as she could. Thanks to her motivation, she was the first of the spring litter to leave the nursery.
"Finally I will be free from bullies," she told her mother. Her mother gave her a reassuring embrace.
She flew only in the cave, at first. But soon she ventured out. For two nights, she was right about the relief she experienced. Although she was still the smallest of her colony, she flew in peace. She watched her father's methods. She learned to hunt by studying him and her uncle. Patient fellows, they showed her how to locate insects of the right size for her. Her uncle stressed the need to avoid the edges of the treelines where owls roosted.
On the third night of her self-sufficiency, as she dove at a moth, another bat swooped close. It was one of her former tormentors. He had left the cave. He screamed at her to ruin her echolocation. A second, larger girl snatched her moth.
She screeched at them with outrage. The bigger two flapped away, laughing.
"Don't provoke them," her mother replied when she learned of the incident.
"Provoke them by eating?" She had to confront the impossibility of her parents' advice. "You think I should stop having food?"
Her next few days of hunting were interrupted by the bullies. Sometimes she ate in peace. Too often, she didn't. Hunger did odd things to her mind. She considered dire solutions. One long, hungry night, she followed one of the bullies and attacked him while he was eating. It was a fight she'd known she would lose and it was over in a few seconds but, if she couldn't eat, she felt determined to make sure that her tormentors knew how she felt.
As she landed on a tree branch, a larger bat joined her. She spun, ready to fight another tormenter, but it was her uncle.
"I suppose you're going to tell me that I should let the bullies do what they want," she said.
"No. It's bad for everyone when that happens," he replied. "Violence and thievery is the result."
She lifted her head. It wasn't the usual answer she'd heard. "Then what?"
"All of us must train ourselves." Her uncle spread and re-folded his wings. "Some of us become expert at self-defense in the air. Your parents were not willing to learn. But I am willing to teach you."
She couldn't imagine that there was anything someone could teach her that would help.
"Peace cannot be obtained through fighting, my parents say." It was the only thought that came to her mind.
"Yes, your father is childish in that way." Her uncle chuckled. "He and your mother have an immature concept of peace. Social equality and justice are not achieved once then then forever set. Peace must be maintained in a continual process."
"But my parents say ..."
"There are some of us in the colony who achieve calm lives for a while by being meek. Those folks depend on the justice maintained by others."
"That's my parents."
"Yes, and it is a position of luxury. Perhaps they don't realize it but their meekness means someone else must do the work. Not everyone can escape responsibility. Some are called upon, for a short while or for a lifetime, to do the hard work of maintaining peace."
Someone always pays for the price of peace. I try to be ever mindful of those who have fought and died for my freedom. We have a tree out front with a yellow ribbon to honor all those who serve this country.ReplyDelete
Glad to hear that you think about the price. I think many take it for granted/ReplyDelete