Friends come and go, but enemies tend to accumulate.
The above saying could have easily been uttered by any number of kingly advisers, perhaps even the great Talleyrand himself, but certainly it came from the realm of political science, where one collects enemies like a philatelist collects postage stamps. Enemies are far less benign than canceled postage stamps. What is it that we are accumulating?
New friends appear in our lives, some for a very short time. We become close, sharing whatever common bonds brought us together, discovering other bonds. Then as quickly as they appeared, the new friend is gone…vanished…never to be heard from again. Enemies aren’t fickle like that. They are much more loyal and enduring, sticking to you like a scar from a mishandled childhood bottle rocket, the proud flesh growing coarser and paler every year, a badge of youthful foolishness and a testimony to the warning, “Use only under adult supervision.” I can remember needing the supervision of adults several times and actually getting it, unwanted as it was. I tended to accumulate unwanted adult supervision.
“You’d better keep your eye on him,” my adult enemies said.
Enemies have the tenacity of wood glue, applied properly, clamped properly, and allowed to cure to its maximum bond, which is stronger than the material it is bonding. If you try to separate wood glued together thus, without heat and moisture to get the glue to yield, and a tediously applied patience, it’s wood splinters you wind up with. You may have a friend or two to help you try and put your personal Humpty Dumpty back together again, but an entire host of accumulated enemies will be pointing at you, laughing at your futile efforts.
Enemies have persistence. Enemies have ingenuity. And the worst enemies are those former friends who have been converted by our own callousness, for not only have they become enemies, they utilize the most diligent scrutiny since they are determined every action we take concerns the reinforcement of our newly-minted mutual hostility. These “frenemies”, as I’ve heard them called, are not yet willing to abandon the friendship. It is they who are our harshest scrutinizers, looking for every chink in our armor from up close while they still can, to later exploit. Knowing our weaknesses, they are the most dangerous enemy.
Politics can turn friends into enemies on the declaration of a single word: that moment when we first discover that our new friends and ourselves don’t share every thought and idea in common.
“I wasn’t aware you liked mayonnaise on your bologna sandwich. You know, it masks the flavor of the bologna,” King Bogarrde of Extemporania said to Crown Prince Flatus of neighboring Servo-Mania at the first millenium economic summit being held in Vienna.
“I detest bologna,” replied Crown-Prince Flatus. “The only way I can eat it is to slather it with Servo-Manian mayo, which makes everything taste better.” The scribes from the world media hastily made notes that the Crown-Prince didn’t like bologna. Hands went to mouths that leaned in towards itching ears as lips moved softly so that whispered words spread what had been overheard. A long-crescendo of gasps, building in muffled intensity, traveled round the room. This was not good.
This irked King Bogarrde to no end, since he and his ministers felt that the economic summit they were attending provided them the best chance of improving their own agricultural economy by exporting more pork, particularly processed pork in the form of bologna. Crown-Prince Flatus had no way of knowing this. He simply knew that he didn’t like bologna.
“If you don’t like bologna,” the summit’s host, Emperor Taxamillion of Austria, anxious to boost his own exports, offered, “Try some of our famous sausages made right here in Vienna. They can even be processed by this miraculous new ‘canning’ method to allow for a long shelf life and ease of transport.”
King Bogarrde couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He was livid at his neighboring co-regents, who were also his double first cousins and brothers-in-law. He turned and whispered to his Secretary of State, “Prepare for war.” The Secretary of State of Extemporania hurried away, now on an urgent mission of Extemporanian honor.
Crown Prince Flatus didn’t hear that whispered exchange since he was busily smacking his lips and wiping mayo from his beard. Nor did Emperor Taxamillion who sucked on his fingers as opened his ninth consecutive can of Vienna Sausages while refusing to even so much as look at the plate of thick-sliced Extemporanian bologna. Extemporania could not allow its bologna to be disrespected in this manner. Before the sun would set, troops carrying weapons of all sorts, their backpacks filled with logs of fresh Extemporanian bologna and hardtack would be marching for Servo-Mania, pausing first for a siege of Vienna along their way.
Unfortunately, the siege would be thwarted by large supplies of canned Austrian Vienna Sausages, and the abandoned Extemporanian encampment would be littered with spoiled bologna. The hasty King Bogarrde never even so much as got a glimpse of his cousin/brother-in-law during what came to be known as the brief Extemporanian/Austrian Conflict since the history books never mentioned the Servo-Manian slight that ignited it. All three regents had collected more enemies though, and a few others as well, just as easily as the slipping of the royal flip-flops onto the royal feet.
Maybe this is the way of kings and cousins and brothers-in-law. Maybe it is the way of nations. Likely, it is just the nature of humans to eternally remember a perceived slight, even where one was not intended, all simply because someone liked Mayonnaise.
The next enemy creation conflict could likely be over which Mayonnaise is preferred. Would that be Hellman’s, Blue Plate, or are you one of the diabolically wicked Miracle Whip people? Or the even worse store-brand people?
Perhaps it’s better if we don’t know. The more useless facts we accumulate about each other, the more likely we are to discover insurmountable obstacles to our newly-formed friendships. As friends we’ll simply go, but as enemies, we’ll likely accumulate.
©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp