“Grandpa!” I shouted. “Be careful! Oh, gee!
Who’s going to drop it?
Will you …? Or will he?”
“Be patient,” said Grandpa. “We’ll see.
We will see …”
So ends The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Seuss’s cold war classic chronicling the increasing tension as the arms race between the Yooks and the Zooks spirals out of control. At issue is which side of the bread to spread the butter, Yooks on the top, Zooks on the bottom, and each convinced the other “has kinks in his soul.” The thinly disguised critique of the cold war with its doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) seems at first to be dated in a post-Soviet world. But the race to acquire the “Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo” (named by Dr. Seuss for Fat Man and Little Boy, the first two atomic bombs) continues. Iran and North Korea defy all sanctions in their quest for a nuclear arsenal and terrorists the world over seek the holy-grail – a nuclear weapon small enough to be smuggled into a targeted city – a Bitsy Boomeroo.
Events of the past few weeks raised for Americans the specter of mass destruction. The Boston Marathon bombings and the industrial explosion in West, Texas once again shattered the illusion of impregnable Fortress-America. Two home-grown terrorists sent one of America’s greatest cities into hiding, and a sleepy Texas town vanished in the blink of an eye. Boston the victim of ideologues with kinks in their souls; West, Texas the meeting place of greed, failed safety regulations, and human error and frailty. Our response? We must have hearings! Who is to blame? Someone in Government must pay!
Jesus warned us that the future will mirror the past. This is the price we pay for being human. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen … Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” (Matt. 24:6-7) “Do not be afraid” seems hopelessly naïve in the face of such situations, yet Jesus is being brutally honest. We will not on our own turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, nor will we foresee and prevent every terrible accident.
The alternatives set before us are starkly contrasted: to live our lives, trusting in God, fearlessly determined to preserve our freedoms or to follow the Chief Yookeroo’s order “to stay safe underground while the Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo is around.”
They were all bravely marching,
With banners aflutter,
Down a hole! For their country!
And Right-Side-Up Butter!
One way is an affirmation of life. The other is paralysis. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminded those early Christians, facing intense persecution, of God’s promise to Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” And to this promise is added the Psalmist’s bold assertion: “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” Such admonitions are easier read than lived, but live we must. How we live is the question — fully alive or with kinks in our souls.
Two paths lie before us. At the end of The Butter Battle Book you cannot tell the difference between the Yooks and the Zooks as they stand eyeball to eyeball, Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroos in hand.
We’ll see. We will see …