Us and Them
It was Us and Them. It was always Us and Them. Sometimes there was more of Us and less of Them. Sometimes vice versa. Always verses each other. Always aversion. Always Us and Them.
We had to protect ourselves, defend our lands, maintain the borders between our territories. Some were disputed territories - no man's land. That's where the most conflict arose. The intersection. Like the central overlap in the Venn diagram we were taught at school. If the right was yellow and the left was blue the middle would be green. Sun yellow and sky blue would make grass green. It would if we didn't have war. Instead we had bloody red. Not a mixture but a primary colour of its own. No blending of our ways, instead another way - a bloody one.
No one want's to get caught in no-man's land. Not if you can help it. I only remember it happening once. We were out on patrol, saw a movement, investigated and found one of Them there. What’s the saying - the best defence is a good offence? The UN's not always there or on your side, so we went on the offence.
We asked Them why they were there. They were lucky we started with interrogation, we could have cut to the chase but we were in a position of strength and flexing our freedom felt more powerful than our strength that day. So we asked why they were there. They didn't answer, instead they asked why we were. And the threat was there. No backing down. A fight to the death was only being postponed until we had strutted our stuff and out witted the other verbally and loudly, before cutting them down to the ground physically.
We spat our words out with contempt and defended our right to be there with such ferocity they had no choice but to defend their position and affirm their own right to occupation. We were caught in deadlock. Was negotiation a possibility? We thought not and parried all kinds of heart felt rights from ancestral to legitimate to legal and the odd prosaic reference to other rights like freedom of speech rights and the like. And we proclaimed our heritage and cursed theirs and felt the adrenaline rise. We were warming up for the fight. Ready for battle. Ready for the bloody red.
This is how the discussion went:
ME. Why are you here?
YOU. Why are YOU here?
ME. Cos I want to and I can
YOU. Me too.
ME. And my big brother used to come here.
YOU. Well my dad used to come here.
ME. Well I can go anywhere I like
YOU. Well why don't you go back to the swings where you belong.
ME. Why don't You go back to the sand pit?
The contested area was the see-saw on the grass green. But we never even got on it. And we could have together. But we were both too busy stopping the other getting on to realise. So forever, one side of the see-saw pointed silently to the swings and the other to the sand pit. No movement. No sharing of space. No balance. No-mans land.
And sometimes, when the football flew past it to the sand pit, we left it there, even if it was new and even if we had just got it as a present for some celebration. And it never came back. But then again, we had so many tennis and cricket balls from Them we never sent back either. We didn't even use them. They were just trophies in our war.
Then we grew up. We grew to adults and parents and took our children there and forgot our petty wars in the real rights children share: to be loved, cared for and safe. To be able to share the see saw, sand pit and swings. On common ground.
The tarmacadam was taken up. The grass green under the see-saw grew all around the sand pit and under the swings, as it had in the beginning. There were no separate lands or people. We were all one.
The tarmacadam wars ended but were not forgotten. The grassy knoll, on which the see-saw stood, had buried there, the stories of pain and empty glory. And in the fertile green no blood red grew but instead forget-me-nots of yellow and blue. The centre sun yellow and the petals sky blue with leaves and green stalk rooted to the earth. And the stalks stood firmly like we can. Not for the green of money or of envy but of growth and life and the grass that's just as green on every side.
Grass is green wherever you go
And spilt blood is red.
The same sun shines
From the same sky.
On You and I.
US and Them
Sometimes all we need is time to pass. And sometimes we grow up too fast. And other times we don't grow up at all. And we never get to play with the sand pit, swings and see-saw. We never get to play with any one at all. US or Them.