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International relations, as explained by an 8-year-old

Sometimes all it takes is the innocence of a child to remind us that allies are on the same team

“Most countries have an organization, run by their government, that sends spies to find out information about other countries.”

This was the conversation at dinner last night. My 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son were intrigued.

“In fact,” my husband tells them, “the Mossad, which is the Israeli intelligence agency, are so good at spying, that some countries blame them for things that didn’t even do. For example, a vulture that had been banded by scientists in Israel was once found in Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis thought that the GPS tracker attached to band on the vulture’s leg was a device that was going to help the Mossad spy on them.”

The children erupt in peals of laughter at the absurdity of the claim.

“Do countries ever spy on their allies?” my daughter wants to know.

“Sometimes,” I respond.

“Why? For fun?” I smile inwardly at her innocence.

I imagine the head of the CIA bouncing a blue rubber ball against the wall of his office, as he contemplates a long afternoon ahead of him, with nothing to do. He calls to a staffer, “Hey, you know what would be a riot? Let’s go spy on Canada.”

“No,” I say. “Sometimes, friendly countries don’t always have the same interests. They might try to hide information even from their allies.”

“Allied countries do have a lot of similar interests,” my husband elaborates. “But not all.”

My daughter contemplates our explanations. “So, they’re like best friends. Maybe they argue because one wants to play tag, and one wants to play hide-and-seek. But they but they both like drinking juice and eating pizza and watching Miraculous Ladybug!”

Again, I am struck by her innocence, but this time it comes with a twinge of sadness.

If only.

I’m not naive. I know the world is full of all kinds of different people, who have different goals, different values, different beliefs, and the entire history of civilization is basically a litany of wars, genocides, and massacres.

But how much more might we accomplish if we just remembered how much we have in common with other countries and the people who inhabit them. Or even, in these contentious times, the “others” in our own countries.

Do we not all want a roof over our heads and food in our bellies? Do we not all want our children to live long, happy, healthy, fulfilling lives? What if we extended a hand in good faith to help everyone accomplish these goals, instead of turning our backs and circling the wagons.

Again, I know it’s not as simple as that. But sometimes all it takes is the innocence of a child to remind us that we’re on the same team –that life is better with a friend at your side.

Maybe we argue over what games to play. Maybe someone even goes home in tears. But please come back tomorrow. We can drink juice and eat pizza and watch Miraculous Ladybug together.

About the Author
Bahtya Minkin is a full-time mother of four, originally from Lakewood, NJ, now living in Beit El. In her ample spare time she enjoys crocheting, reading, and arguing with strangers on Facebook.
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