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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

An underdog’s story: A highly imperfect yet increasingly relevant foreign policy parable

<e was once a kid. He was pretty scrawny and nerdy, generally kept to himself and tried not to bother anyone else. He was quiet and reserved, never quite the social butterfly. The problem was that other kids around seemed to mistake his isolationist tendencies for exclusionary behavior. They felt the kid was cocky; that he thought he was better than everyone else, and the fact that he succeeded at everything he did hurt his image in everyone else’s eyes. He got good grades, seemed to have loving parents, and generally appeared like he had everything together. As a result, he was picked on. No matter how much he tried to just mind his own business, others insisted on making life difficult for him. They would break his glasses, tease him, and call him the dirtiest names anybody knew. Eventually, the abuse went over the edge. Some classmates who were convinced that their failures as students were to be blamed on his successes beat him up real good. This scrawny sixteen year old kid who considered himself a proud member of his high school was beaten close to death because others believed his exploits were bringing them down, the so-called real members—the cool kids—of the school. After the bloody beat down, our story’s underdog was rushed to the hospital. Hours of surgery later, the kid stabilized and was able to function again.

At the same time as this boy was being bullied nearly to death, there was another person who was gaining prominence around the school grounds. He seemed to be popular with everyone. He was athletic, smart, and promoted good values. His dedication to community service was unrivaled by anyone else his age and he was therefore admired for it. As our underdog was bullied and beaten, this kid watched from a distance, until the treatment went too far and he decided it was time to intervene. Upon the weakling’s arrival from the hospital, our story’s Mr. Popular had made a pledge to protect him at all costs, for the very tenets of his moral fiber meant he could not stand by as his fellow peer was treated so brutally and unfairly. Mr. Popular was liked for many reasons, including the strength of his ideas as well as his brute physical power. Almost all students respected him, and even those who didn’t dared not cross him out of concern for their own survival. When he made the decision to protect the victim at any cost, a seemingly unbreakable relationship was formed.

The two went everywhere together. Our runt still excelled academically as before, but with the school’s hegemon by his side, few dared pose a serious threat. While there was still teasing and the occasional physical altercation, big brother was always there to clean things up, to ensure little brother’s survival. As a result of this new protection, however, instead of remaining humble little brother grew emboldened. Not only did he get good grades but he began to brag about it; he seemed to go out of his way to goad those around him who might feel threatened and encroached upon because of his new protection. No matter what arrogance the earlier victim displayed, however, big brother was always there to have the last word. Yes, at times the blunt rudeness complicated things for big bro and his pursuit of his interests, but he was always able to stunt any conflict so that all parties were able to keep on keeping on.

There was a point, however, when little bro’s newfound brashness seemed to complicate things a bit too much even for big brother. See, little bro knew he could not be seriously harmed, but his combination of arrogance and self-victimization created a dynamic where he not only took his protector and biggest supporter for granted but at the same time showed a lack of acknowledgment for the change in his situation that big bro’s support had brought. This attitude complicated things for our big man on campus and wimpy kid protector because both were bickering with people who were close relatives. A resolution between big brother and his foes relied on a resolution between little brother and his.

But little bro seemed to be clueless of this fact. Instead of realizing the need to respect the imperatives and interests of the one who had always ensured his survival, he repeatedly spat in his face. Even when big brother risked his reputation by simply demanding a bit more humility, little bro, in an act of brazen stupidity, took the opportunity to brag about his accomplishments more. He did this, even when it made it harder on big bro to protect him and more difficult for him to garner empathy, sympathy, and compassion in the larger school community. Now our story’s protector is in a tough spot. He is committed to protecting his little friend, because as he is fond of saying in reference to his earlier near death experience, “never again.” But seeing as big brother is going through challenging times as well, little brother’s unconcern for big brother’s needs is increasingly disconcerting and difficult and to deal with.

Unfortunately, our story does not yet have an ending. Big brother can’t threaten his friend too greatly because of the strength of his paranoid victim’s mindset. Not doing anything, however, could seriously undermine his ability to continue to be a productive and legitimate member of his community. What should he do?

Of course, this illustration of the American-Israeli situation is very much a caricature. It paints each country with a picture that is fraught with inaccuracies and oversimplifications. This narrative is becoming increasingly prominent in American foreign policy commentary, however, and supporters of Israel, of which I am one, need to start acknowledging the truths that are present within this story even if some of its falsehoods stick out like a sore thumb.

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