“THEY CHANGED THEIR STRIPES”
by OPOVV, ©2014
The curtain rises as the sounds of Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D1944, 4th movement are accompanied by machine-gun fire, and the screaming siren of a World War II Stuka dive bomber is heard. Elaborate productions have a life-sized reproduction of the plane, while less-endowed theatrical companies employ a cardboard cutout. The plane dips down from stage right and flies off yonder at stage left. In the center of the stage is a rowboat occupied by an old man wearing a knit hat and a shawl and a younger man in a short-sleeved shirt. Both are holding fishing poles. The backdrop is of an idyllic Northern lakeshore. From stage left are overhanging branches of a willow tree.
Younger man: “Wow! That was close. Why did they attack us? We’re no threat: all we’re doing is trying to catch some fish.”
Old man: “It’s the way of the world, son. You see, it’s like this: when I was a younger man I used to say things like ‘I think’ and ‘It seems to me,’ but now I don’t bother. What’s the point? I mean, by this time in my life I KNOW the answers. You see, think of that Stuka as a metaphor.”
Younger man: “Well, that metaphor had machine guns, as if you didn’t notice.”
Old man: “Yes, of course, I see your point. Once again, think of that implement of death as what’s wrong with the world. Forget the plane with its bombs and guns: think of the pilot.”
Younger man: “I have, believe me, and I don’t think much of him, or her, but who cares? Someone wrote that the little boy on the receiving end of a bomb dropped from a bomber doesn’t care where the bomb was made or who released it.”
Old man: “Precisely! Exactly my point!”
Younger man: “Excuse me, but what point?”
Old man: “It’s like this: that pilot knew we were no military or strategic threat, but we are a threat nonetheless. We’re the threat of reason. We’re not off attacking people like they are. We’re not one of them, and that’s the secret. It’s that simple. They view us as the enemy because we’re not marching in step, so they do the only thing they can do: they attack us.”
Younger man: “But that’s insane! We’re not any threat to anybody.”
Old man: “Well, in reality, you’re right, but they don’t see it that way. They can’t abide by The Golden Rule: they’d rather force their selfish beliefs and way of life on others, not because it’s right, but because they can.”
Younger man: “But that’s preposterous! It’s all a great big waste. Instead of building a plane to kill people, they could’ve built a tractor to help feed people.”
Old man: “Son, common sense and logic are commodities that they may have once had, but not now. It’s just a bunch of lunatics having their ‘Day-in-the-Sun,’ as it were. Then, after millions have needlessly died, they’ll be overthrown and Reason will prevail for a few years until the cycle starts all over again.”
Young man: “But it’s all so wasteful and, I think, preventable.”
Old man: “Spoken like a True Dreamer. Look, son, you’ll always have bad people running around trying to stir up the pot; the trick is to catch them early and deal with them appropriately.
The sound of the Stuka Dive Bomber is heard, getting louder.
Younger man: “Let’s row over under those trees, how’s that sound?”
Old man: “Let’s do it.”
Curtain rises again on the two in the rowboat as the sun is over the yardarm. The soft music is Dvorak’s Serenade for Wind Instruments in D Minor, Op. 44, 1st movement, followed by Brahms’s Variations on The St. Anthony Chorale in B Flat, Op. 56A: Theme and Variations 1-3.
Younger man: “Why did that Stuka spend all afternoon flying in circles over us?”
Old man: “Had orders, son, orders to do us in, I suppose. Next I suspect they’ll send out a submarine to sink us.”
Younger man: “A sub! Think of the expense! Why, this isn’t the ocean, it’s just a lake!”
Just then a torpedo passes between the rowboat and the audience. Financially-secure productions use a life-sized model of a real torpedo, while shoestring operations have two actors inside a cardboard torpedo, as if they were a Chinese dragon, running across the stage.
Younger man: “Wow! That was close! A real torpedo! Are we that valuable of a target?”
Old man: “They think so. We’re both veterans who own guns, dogs, hunting equipment. Even though we’re ‘entitled’ to receive a lot more ‘assistance’ from the government, we don’t. So, yes, we represent independent thought, something that’s not allowed in North Korea, and that’s their game plan for America, too.”
Younger man: “But we’re Americans!”
Old man: “Son, I hate to break it to you, which is why we spent this time together, but the America we once knew is gone. Ignorance and stupidity trumped reason, hard work and pride. Sloth won because of greed; it’s that simple. People think that they’re owed something when all they deserve is a swift kick.”
Younger man: “They tried to machine-gun and torpedo us; what’ll they think of next?”
Old man: “The implosion is what they’ll try next, but first I think they’ll come for our guns.”
Younger man: “That’s all well and good, but who are ‘they?’ Who are these people? Do they come from overseas?”
Old man: “Well, some come from other places; that’s to be expected, but most are homegrown.”
Younger man: “But we’re from here, just like they are. What happened to them?”
Old man: “They lost sight of the goal; they forgot the meaning of life; they stopped thinking of others, so now all they think about is themselves. They are truly afraid of us because we have what it takes and they’ll never have it.”
Younger man: “Have what? Are you telling me the meaning of life? The “why we are here?”
Old man: “It’s no secret, son; it’s been right in front of us all for thousands of years. The Golden Rule is the key. That’s it.”
Younger man: “And they’re trying to kill us just because we ‘get it’ and they don’t?”
Old man: “Right. Look, underneath your seat is a box with two buttons. The one marked ‘SAM’ is for a surface-to-air missile that’ll take care of that annoying Stuka, and the one marked ‘Ticket to Davy Jones’s Locker’ will sink the sub. Just because we’ve taken it so far doesn’t mean we have to take it a day longer.”
Young man: “Holy pigeons and sardines! Wow! Oh boy, this is the best fun I’ve ever had! Thanks.”
The music of Brahms is over as the theme music for Richard Rodgers’ Victory at Sea begins.
At this point the old man, in the back of the rowboat, unfurls the American flag as the sound of the dive bomber is heard. The young man pushes the button, and from the shore, stage right, a missile launches up and across the stage. Elaborate productions have a full-sized replica of the TALOS two-stage missile, with the booster falling off just above the rowboat, to land off stage left. Other productions use a 4th of July skyrocket on a string. The sounds of an explosion are heard. The old man and the younger man duck as pieces of the plane fall on the lake. A torpedo passes by, and the young man pushes the other button. A loud BOOM! is heard as the rowboat is pitched into the air. All is quiet.
Young man: “Wow! Is this great or what?”
Old man: “Yes and no, son. We just killed 100 people, but at least they weren’t Americans. Maybe they were born here, but they changed their stripes. See this-here flag? These stripes don’t change and these colors don’t run.”