Duck, duck, gray duck: a lesson to learn

MBy Jon Farnsworth

Minnesotans call it “Gray Duck,” most others call it “Goose.” The popular childhood game is played nearly the same in all states. No matter what the game is called, a valuable lesson can be learned from it.

As a kindergartner, the youthful, competitive spirit in me always loved bopping the rest of my classmates on the heads while thinking of clever names to call them as I made my way around the circle: “Silly duck,” “ugly duck,” “red duck,” “smelly duck,” “grrrrross duck” “grrrrrrreeen duck,” “GRAY DUCK!” and I took off sprinting around the circle so that the “gray duck” wouldn’t catch me. I sat down to safety and laughed while reminiscing of the witty remarks I name-called my fellow classmates. Not only could I perfectly time when to say “grey duck” and to run, but I faked people out and taunted them by making them think I was going to say “grey duck” but instead said things like: “grrrross duck,” “grrrrrrreen duck,” etc. I was on top of my game. I loved every minute of it; but my classmates did not share my enthusiasm for the way I played.

Unfortunately for me, my success didn’t last. I was despised by others not because I would continually win at the onset of each game, but because of how I went about playing. No matter if I was playing the game as “Gray Duck” or “Goose,” my style/strategy of play was what landed me into trouble with my classmates. Eventually, my short-run success ended up becoming a long-run disaster/weakness. By name-calling and snickering at my friends and foes alike, I burned my bridges. (What kid likes to be continuously called a “smelly duck?”) I ultimately ended up alienating my potential allies in the game and thus, everyone ganged up on me, even people who were previously my friends.

By the end of the game I was on the losing end of the stick and had learned a valuable lesson. Although my goal was to win every game, and I did in the short-run, I needed more diplomatic means of attaining this long-term goal (I couldn’t continue winning if the entire circle was against me.)

For the past six months, George W. Bush has stressed the imminent danger Iraq poses and the necessity of pre-emptive military strike against them – and now we find ourselves at war. Unfortunately, Bush has failed to learn the lesson that I, as a child, had learned while playing “Gray Duck.” Just as I alienated my potential allies in the circle while playing “Gray Duck,” Bush has done the same to many of the United States’ potential allies in the United Nations’ “circle” (France, Germany, Russia, Canada, etc.).

Now, even our staunchest allies question our current course of action. Ironically, many politicians, in European countries actually won re-election campaigns in part because of their anti-American positions.

In the subsequent days following Sept. 11, 2001, the United States had the world’s support. Everyone in the U.N. “circle” was happy to assist the U.S. in rooting out terrorism and bringing to justice the despicable people who masterminded the plot. However, in the aftermath of the attacks, Bush has successfully turned our potential allies vigilant against Americans and our foreign policy by his posturing, name-calling, impatience and arrogance. We only had Britain, Spain and Australia as reluctant allies. Tomorrow we could have none.

Bush might have been correct in that Iraq posed a threat to the United States. Bush could have been right that a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein was the correct thing to do. Bush might even win a complete short-term victory in Iraq without an extensive amount of multilateral support. However, the bottom line is that his long-term goal of reducing terrorism will go unfulfilled if he does not have more allies. In order to garner this support for future action against terrorism, Bush needs to institute more diplomatic strategies instead of just “our way or the highway.” So far, the majority of the world’s citizens are not impressed with Bush’s Iraq war sales pitch (worldwide support for the United States is at an all-time low).

In the game of “Gray Duck,” the more I bullied, taunted and name-called, the more my classmates schemed and plotted against me. Bush must understand that the players in the global “circle” share his objectives of wanting to reduce terrorism. However, I only hope and pray Bush will seek appropriate adjustments in our foreign policies and diplomatic means before another series of events such as Sept. 11, 2001, occurs on behalf of our arrogant, misguided and divisive policies.

Our long-term goal of effectively rooting out terrorism and preventing another series of events such as those of Sept. 11, 2001, might fail unless we establish more multilateral support. The saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall.” We cannot win this war on terrorism alone.

Jon Farnsforth is a former University student who now attends Gustavus Adolphus College. Parts of this article originally appeared in the Gustavus Weekly.

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