My friend the donkey
Duraid Lahham
I went for a walk in the orchards surrounding Damascus, known as al-Ghutta, shortly after the cement revolution destroyed all of its trees, searching for a suitable spot to picnic. After much trouble I did indeed find a lonely tree, and sat beneath it, alongside a small mule that was there probably for the same reason. I started drinking a cup of coffee, when I suddenly heard a voice-out of nowhere-speaking to me.
  
"Hello brother!"  

I turned around and found no one in sight; only the mule and myself.  

The voice repeated his greetings, "Hello brother! Don't look too hard, I am the mule right next to you." 

I angrily replied, "Am I your brother?" 

The mule insisted, "Why not? We all are the creation of God, are we not? The only difference is that you humans walk on two legs, while we walk on four, which actually makes us far more balanced when we walk." 

I replied, "Sounds logical. But how is it that you are a donkey and you speak Arabic?" 

The mule laughed, "You Arabs speak a lot; we learned your language. You say a lot, but don't seem to do much." 

Annoyed, I snapped back, "The donkeys are not any better, are they?" 

Calmly, the mule replied, "We do not speak, but work relentlessly."  
"Explain that to me," I said.  

"Did you ever see a donkey on Arab satellite television, blabbering away for hours?" 

"Never!" 

"That means we don't engage in useless talk. But if someone annoys us, we kick him hard! That means we act more than we speak, unlike you Arabs. Do you understand?"  

"Perhaps, just perhaps, you are right." 

"There's no 'perhaps' about it. Certainly I am right! Say it and do not be ashamed. Regardless, that is not what I wanted to speak to you about." 

"What is it?"  

"The story is I am standing here in the shade of this tree, analyzing and thinking deeply about what is happening in Iraq."  

"Please" I said, "Don't remind me!" 

"Your problem," he sneered, "is that you have a short memory. You forget too quickly, and that is why I wanted to remind you. But even that is not what's on my mind." 

I was about to lose my patience, "Tell me what is it you want?" 

"The story is that we in the animal family are divided into categories. One is vegetarian. The other is meat-eating."  

"The same applies to us human beings," I said.  

Chuckling, he replied, "Yes indeed. That is another thing we have in common! The vegetarians are like me, for example, and the meat-eaters are called 'predators'." 

"I know that!" 

Amused, he mockingly replied, "Bravo. Smart human! When they get hungry, predators chase an entire herd of deer, and kill only one for a good meal. They leave the rest in peace and do not hunt any others until they become hungry once again."  

"I know that as well," I replied.  

"Smart human! Smart human! Did you not realize that beasts have more humanity in their hearts towards other animals, than you humans have for each other?" 

"Tell me how?" 

"Meaning, beasts kill another beast only in self-defense or when they become hungry. Humans kill thousands of other humans-but they do not eat a single one of them! Why in the world do you kill them if you are not hungry? That means beasts are more human than humans themselves. Aren't you seeing what is happening in Iraq? Don't give me that pathetic line 'Don't remind me!' I must remind you!"  

I suddenly understood his entire logic, and in defeat, calmly answered, "No…I won't repeat that same line. You are right."
 
The mule wrapped up, "Bravo. Isn't it more logical for you humans to be branded as animals, and we animals branded as humans? Its just a name exchange-we should try it!"