Another Parable of Bears

(For Those Who Still Don’t See What’s Happening)

Once upon a time, a tribe of brown bears lived on a beautiful island. Some shores were rocky; others were sandy. Mountains stretched up to reach the sun and stars, and massive forests and sprawling fields spread all over the land. The bears kept hives of honey bees and fields of berry bushes, and they hunted salmon from the great rivers that cut their way from coast to coast – north, south, east, and west. One day, a group of polar bears arrived from across the sea and settled on the island. The brown bears welcomed their new neighbors and showed them how to live of the land because the polar bears were accustomed to a very different sort of place. But not long after, the polar bears decided they would build a truly great society where all bears would be equal. So, they poured all their energies into making their vision reality, began spreading across the island and bringing more polar bears with them. They drove the brown bears out of their caves, killing most of them when they resisted relocation, and confining the survivors into a few small, barren areas of the island. The polar bears made the island their own – covering the land with ice, erecting monumental stone structures, building farms to raise whale and sea lions to satisfy their monstrous appetites, and establishing themselves as the leaders. They set up government, a warrior class in case they were attacked by other animals, and peace keepers to enforce laws between bears.

But all of these new developments demanded a lot of hard labor, much more than the polar bears were able and willing to provide for themselves. So they sent traders across the sea to buy black bears and bring them back to the island as slaves. These bears worked long hours for only enough food to survive and poor shelter, and they were routinely abused by their polar bear masters in terrible ways – beaten, tied up, muzzled, separated from their families, humiliated.

Years passed. The island grew prosperous, and the polar bears became rich. Not all of the polar bears lived in luxury, but even the poor polar bears were faring much better than the black bears. Some polar bears in the government began to feel guilty, and eventually after a bitter battle, the black bears were declared free, but they were still paupers. They had no property, many polar bears still treated them with contempt and abuse, and they received more severe punishment if they were convicted of crimes. Peace keepers often treated them with extreme violence – violence they would never have used on a white bear. Secret clubs of polar bears terrorized the black bears’ dens, and the black bears weren’t allowed access to certain areas of the island that the polar bears were free to enjoy. Even when they were simply laughing loudly or arguing with their families, they were labeled threatening. Even though they were now able to begin bettering their situation, they were still struggling to survive in a world of ice, snow, and blubber. Sometimes, when the atrocities happened in greater frequency, the black bears would assemble and march into the areas where they weren’t allowed, one paw raised, closed in a fist. Some times it was peaceful. Some times polar bears would get really angry because the black bears pointed out inequalities, fights broke out, and blood ran bright red down the ice, carving tiny canyons in its surface. The black bears raised their closed paws, and eventually, rules were enacted that allowed them to enter all areas of the island where the polar bears were allowed, but not much else changed.

More years passed, the black bears were still regarded with contempt, still assumed to be criminals, and still far more of them were punished for crimes and killed by peace keepers than their white counterparts. The black bears marched again, raising their voices and fists protesting injustice. Again, fights broke out, monuments were damaged, peace keepers were called in, more blood, more canyons. Some polar bears recognized that the black bears were not being treated as bears and raised a closed paw with them. Most polar bears recognized but stood silent and watched. Some polar bears raged against the black bears saying they should be grateful for the the opportunities they had been given. After all, they were now allowed all over the island, and everything had been fixed.

The black bears were more hurt than ever, and being treated this way for generations, they were angry, especially when the polar bears pointed out how great their society was – the greatest in the world they would say.

But it wasn’t equal, as they had claimed it would be. So how could it be great?

Finally one month, two polar bears killed a black bear who was out exercising. They said he looked like a bear they thought had stolen property in their territory. The peace keepers let the perpetrators alone until other bears saw what had happened and began to roar. Peace keepers out of their uniforms raided the den of a black bear and killed her while she slept. They threw her mate in prison when he tried to fight back even though they had entered the wrong den. A black bear walking by the river asked a polar bear to control her ferret that was annoying others (it was not supposed to be loose anyway). She began crying for peace keepers to come intervene, claiming he was assaulting her. Then, a black bear, accused of a minor crime, was held down by three polar bears. One of them rested his entire weight on the black bear’s neck. And the black bear died.

The black bears were furious and they roared and they marched again. This time more polar bears roared and marched and some of the brown bears and all other types of bears that had moved to the island. Birds carried the stories abroad, and bears on islands all over the earth roared and marched because of how the black bears were treated over and over again and how the polar bears refused to change their ways and rules over and over again. Bears of all types began smashing monuments and businesses – smashing what they had helped build and setting it afire. And the peace keepers came, blood ran down the ice, and fires smoldered.

And even then, while the “greatest” society crumbled and burned, there were polar bears raging about how the “black bears were tearing it all down”, while they themselves punched holes in the walls of their dens and tossed bedding across their rooms all because some of their stuff was destroyed, never realizing it could have been avoided if they’d only listened and acted.

But through the smolder, the ice was melting, the berry bushes were trying to sprout leaves again, and from time to time, the hum of honey bee wings wafted in on a warm wind.

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