Alexandra Markus is a freelance writer who lives in New York City and works as a producer for AskAbigail Productions. While attending McGill University, she was a student reporter intern at the Israel on Campus Coalition. She is passionate about debunking anti-Israel falsehoods wherever she may find them. She also remains active in other progressive causes.
The world is a high school cafeteria.
You have the US as the Queen Bee at the popular table. She’s always flaunting her rich daddy’s wealth and power, and everyone either secretly hates her or is secretly taking advantage of her. Seated at her table are the EU countries and some OECD countries such as South Korea and Japan, with Canada as her second in command. Canada admires USA but USA thinks she’s a wannabe. Mexico, also a wannabe, is desperate to be USA’s friend, but has a drug problem, so USA keeps politely brushing her off. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are good friends and floaters who hang out with everyone whenever they feel like it and tell them what they want to hear. They are frenemies with the US’s table because although they are jealous of America’s power, they are social climbers and don’t want that power used against them.
African countries, and to a lesser extent, South American countries and India, form the Special Ed table because some members of the Popular Table (who shall not be named) beat them down with a baseball bat in hopes that the Popular Table can more easily take advantage of them. Eventually, the Popular Table realized this was a bad idea but it was too late – they already had brain damage but are in the process of healing. They’re getting a lot of Special Ed from aides provided by the school, and in many ways are moving forward, but sometimes their brain damage means they don’t use the aid they get wisely. Some are involved in drugs to numb the pain of what happened, so other countries both pity and fear them.
China is the leader of a repressive clique where people feel afraid to express themselves. She is friends with Russia, and both suck up to each other for strategic reasons. Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Ukraine are forced to stay in that clique because they’re made to feel like they’ll have no friends if they don’t. This clique used to be enemies with the US, but now relations have cooled down a bit (but there is a rumor that Russia is secretly talking trash about USA behind her back). Although they’ve asked Mongolia to start having lunch with them, Mongolia is an artistic loner and doesn’t particularly care about making friends, but she doesn’t have enemies either.
North Korea and Cuba also sit at China’s table. North Korea got a bit weird with the whole emo thing so China wants to distance herself from her publicly, but privately they’re good friends who IM all hours of the night. North Korea cuts herself and has a visceral hatred and anger at everyone, especially the Popular Kids, whom she blames for her loss of social standing when she decided to join China’s clique while her twin, South Korea, was made a member of the popular clique. They might be twins, but North and South Korea are like night and day. North Korea always talks about destroying USA and her clique and stealing her popularity, but nobody takes her seriously because her emo attitude is paralyzing her from coming up with a sophisticated plan. Everyone laughs at North Korea behind her back and wishes she were more like her twin sister. Even China does sometimes.
There are two emerging cliques composed of OIC (Organization for Islamic Cooperation) countries that believe they’re better than the current popular clique because they’re so much more moral and closer to God than those “sluts.” Saudi Arabia and Qatar head the Sunni OIC clique, but suck up to the rest of the world so they seem harmless. They have many admirers, notably South America who sucks up to them, even though they think South America is a loser. Their main goal is to take over the school because they genuinely feel they deserve it. They don’t only have the Popular Table standing in their way: they also have the Shia OIC clique, headed by Iran, with some proxy countries such as Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. Their clique isn’t large, but it is powerful. The Shia OIC and Sunni OIC cliques are sworn enemies and don’t agree with each other’s morality and are often too busy duking it out to bother trying to take over The Popular Table as they have planned.
The EU countries, and, increasingly, USA, are hippies who know what the OIC cliques want to do, but they hope that if they’re nice to them, they will stop trying to take over the school and instead all join together as one big happy family. To appease them, they let the OIC girls borrow their clothes from time to time. The OIC girls just laugh about the Popular Kids behind closed doors and never give them back. USA, despite warnings from Canada, has drunk the hippie kool-aid and sometimes comes over to Iran’s house in hopes that they can work out a deal that would stall Iran from dethroning the Popular Kids. Not surprisingly, the second USA’s mom picks her up from Iran’s house, the rest of the Shia OIC clique poke out from inside Iran’s closet and make fun of USA and her friends.
“Yeah, right, like we’ll stop what we’re doing because the Queen Bee tells us to!” Iran says.
“I know, right? She’s so self-absorbed if she thinks she’s so cool that everyone actually gives a crap about anything she says, let alone listens to her demands!” adds Lebanon.
“I wonder if we could pay other countries to sabotage the popular kids. I bet Russia’s clique and the Special Ed kids would be game. The Special Ed kids would do anything for a buck!” suggested Iran.
“Divide and Conquer!” quipped Lebanon.
“Love it!” exclaimed Iran.
From her room, a few blocks away, Israel turns off the miniature recording device she secretly implanted into Iran’s left shoulder when she wasn’t paying attention, back when they were still best friends and Israel suspected things were about to go sour. I have to let everyone know what’s going on! Especially USA! Israel thought, alarmed.
Israel is the science and tech nerd who is always inventing things and gets the best grades, but is small in stature and doesn’t have very good social skills. There are rumors that she might have Asperger’s, because she isn’t very good at picking up social cues from other countries. The Popular Kids, who have taken pity on her since she almost died in a fight against the Sunni OIC that lasted six days, sometimes protect her from bullies. Even still, some of them make fun of her behind her back, and use her because they know she would do anything for them. Her mother, the Jewish Diaspora, is constantly telling her to keep quiet and ignore bullies so that they get bored and go away. However, the more she ignores them, the more the bullies try to up the ante to push her buttons. Sometimes she decides to fight back, and goes ballistic scaring the bullies for a little while. Sometimes, Principal UN suspends her when she tries to fight back against the bullies, because the bullies are very good at pretending to be victims and getting the Principal on their side, arguing that Israel used disproportionate force. The bullies from both the Sunni OIC and the Shia OIC have managed to convince most of the Special Ed table to support them, and even have Russia’s tacit support and China’s indifference, so whenever the principal asks who was at fault, the “bystanders” often blame Israel. The Popular Kids, especially the EU countries, are aware of the OIC cliques’ growing power. As a result, members of the popular table are beginning to fear the repercussions of standing up for Israel and have been more relaxed in their defense, hoping to appease the OIC. These new developments are worrying Israel, now trained in martial arts but fearful of how her reputation would be affected if she used too many of those skills to fight back.
The moral of the story is this: life is like high school: if you keep ignoring the bullies they’re only going to try harder. If you punch them in the face, they won’t touch you again for a while because they’ll be afraid of you. You might get suspended, but at least you stood up for yourself. Sometimes that even makes the bullies respect you more, for your might, and for your refusal to take crap from anyone.
Israel would be better off if she followed her own inner compass and stopped listening to her mother’s advice. Although her mother is only out for her best interests and doesn’t want her to get hurt, the advice to ignore bullies never packs quite a punch as a nice big knuckle sandwich. Israel is strong, brave, smart, and beautiful and should never let the haters win. She knows that friendships are fickle, that she’s alone in the world and ultimately must learn to fend for herself.