It started as a minor altercation. A reporter came to their country to do a story on some event that was taking place. What event, you ask? Well, the event doesn’t matter, but since you asked, it was a celebration on the outskirts of their main city. He was, at this event, invited to a formal function at the palace the next night. To bring his camera and his notebook so he could go back to his own country and tell them of the magnificence of this country he had visited. To comment on how well he was treated and the greatness of the people who lived there. And that was the beginning of when things went wrong.
They were a foolish people who believed that a reporter from another country would do as their reporters did and report what they were approved to. They were foolish in that they trusted he would speak only to the proper people, photograph only the best and most beautiful they had. They believed in this, they trusted in this knowledge, and so they trusted him. It was a mistake they were not likely to repeat.
He returned to his country and began to write a series of reports on what he had seen there. The bustling fair and market of the celebration, the people in their colorful clothing, richly died cottons and silks. The heavy scents of the food aisles full of exotic herbs mingled in simmering pots thick with meats and hearty vegetables. Bright banners and streamers flew from every post on every stall. Even the ground itself was suffused with the smells of the carnivale, the droppings and leavings of all the goers mixing and coalescing with the dirt and sweat and dog feces.
On the surface, it all looked like a pleasure fair of a happy people. It took a discerning eye to see past the bright facade and peer into the shadows behind. And that is the mark the reporter was known for. He found the shadow side and slipped into it and reached out a hand of friendship to it. Gladly was it greeted and he was welcomed by the fires and stories shared. He found the same such outstretched hands in the staff at the castle and passed many hours unnoticed by his hosts as missing, so busy they were with their royal festivities.
All of this came out in his pages. Not the stories of the bright celebration, the glorious royal family, the richness of the castle and the opulence of the ball. Or rather, those things did shine forth in his words, but in exposing the cost to the people. He told of the dismal conditions so many lived, the oppression, the lack of simple basic needs. He told of the jokes the royal family made of the peasants in their kingdom, how they had added a new tax this last month to fund their ball. He told it all and laid them bare.
To say that they were not pleased is an understatement. They sent official demands that the words be retracted, an apology offered. It fell on deaf ears. The country of the reporter and the neighboring countries joined in a condemnation of the country, demanding they give a voice to their people, allow them a part in the workings of the country. The angry exchange lasted for months till it was threatened by the oppressive country more drastic measures would be taken.
Who it was that came up with the idea in the reporter’s country, no one is sure or can no longer remember. That it was a work of brilliance, none can deny. That it made the world sit up and take notice the news can attest.
Through the dead of night a few small planes flew, just under the radar, seeking out the capital and the surrounding townships to release their loads. Tiny parachutes dotted the skyline, floating gently to the ground in the pre-dawn air. Each carrying a single load, a small teddy bear each holding its own unique message for peace, democracy, hope. More than a thousand of them littered the landscape when the people emerged from their homes. More than a thousand that were met with cries of joy from the children and snatched up by all to take back to their homes with them. What a sight it was if you were fortunate enough to be awake to see it. Even in the night dark skies, you could see the tiny white parachutes dancing in the wind currents of the air as they made their way earthward.
The military tried to order the return of the bears, but they only were offered up a small fraction of those that came. They tried threatening with new laws making it a crime to be caught with one of the bears and that seemed to have little impact.
The royal family was furious that their air space had been so easily breached and a few of the highest officers lost their command from it. Then came the talks to figure out what to do about the situation. They couldn’t retaliate with violence. That could incur the wrath of the rest of the nations and they were ill equipped for a full war. In the end, they decided to retaliate with the same. And the next day, their own planes flew over their enemies capital and townships and dropped its own load of teddy bears with their own messages.
All was quiet for a few days and it seemed the news was quiet on the subject. Then another morning dawned with another littering of bears across the land. And soon after, another volley in the other direction, all plush arms holding a message for their neighbor across the border.
The toy factories began working overtime to keep up with the demand by the two governments. When they ran out of the bears, they began shipping their other stores, their bunnies, kittens, puppies, wild animals and fantasy creatures, the dragons, the fairies, the griffons.
The news headlines around the world were in a frenzy over the strange war going on. Each day’s headline marked as the animal or creature of the day. The day of the bunnies, the day of the dragons.
It went on for months and months. By the end of the year, the toy makers had no animals to ship to the stores for children’s presents. All being consigned for the ongoing war effort. Christmas dawned with tears in children’s eyes at not getting their Christmas bear and again on Easter when their basket held no bunnies. No Valentine bears to give your sweetheart jewelry, no boo-boo bears to give your friend in the hospital.
What had started off as a source of amusement had now started to affect the rest of the world. Most importantly, the children. Demands were made to reconcile, negotiate and put an end to this very long war. At first they went unheeded till sanctions were laid till they agreed to meet at a bargaining table. The bears had sparked a rebellion in the one country. Concessions were made to give more voice to the people. Agreements for more mutual respect. A treaty of peace signed and witnessed. The bears were to fly no more.
Never before had a war been waged with a teddy bear. It is hard to tell if any ever will be again. It will go down in history as the war that dropped bombs of joy. Peace was achieved and lives made better. And throughout it all, not a single life was lost. Well, except for the drunk that fell asleep on the beach and choked to death on plush when a bear landed on his face. But, no one speaks of that incident.