Problems of daily life:
You are in London. You are asked to leave your house since special police are about to blast their way into the Iranian Embassy to rescue captives.
What do you do?
You phone the police and say:
"I am concerned that gunfire may disturb the ducks. There are ducks nesting on my sill. I fear the young ones may be terrified and fall from the nest and be lost."
You do not demand the assault be aborted, however, for you think the rescue of captives is laudable, even if one or two of them are television newsfolk.
The police, for their part, arrive to lay foam rubber pads beneath the nest. Just in case a duck topples.
And now you have your reward for clear thinking:
The episode is over, the captives are saved, and the ducks are still safe in the nest.
But as we learn in a note from Rachel Bridges of London (who read of all this in the Evening Standard), the London police are highly efficient and sensible too. She feared we, in Washington, might somehow have missed "the real news of London," and thus has relayed it.
This shows the importance of protecting reasonably. You do not say, "To hell with the television newsfolk, what about my ducks."
No. But you do voice a proper concern about nestlings.
The mere fact that people are going to set off bombs and guns and all that sort of thing does not mean you have to forget everything else in the general commotion.
Often if we notify Authority of some problem, steps will be taken. Foam pads will be laid. The London police might well have saved several infant ducks, if they had fallen out.
Careless people go berserk and say:
"They're going to bomb the place. Lives are at stake. Help, help." And don't tend to their own responsibilities toward the ducks nesting on their own windowsills.
Once a tornado struck New Orleans, and many dogs were ill-treated. Shot, in fact. I pointed out at the time it's not much of a city that can't get drinking water to its dogs, tropical storm or no tropical storm.Some in that city responded with anger, rattling on about how people were starving and chaos was all about.
Did one ever doubt it? So much the greater reason to see that homeless dogs got water.
If an atom bomb drops, there is no reason to forget to feed the dogs. We cannot prevent bombs at embassies or falling bombs or tidal waves. We can, while life lasts, do our bit in upholding civilization. Like the fellow with the ducks in London, and the police there who did their bit.
Socrates once observed there is no doubt a man may sometimes save himself if he will do anything or say anything on the field of battle.
Likewise Xenophon spoke once with praise of those who thought it was shameful to run away under fire.
Suppose a London cop had fallen off the curb while laying the pads for the ducks beneath the nest, and had perhaps broken his neck and died.
Well, there are risks men run.
Suppose a captor inside the besieged embassy looked out and saw the cop laying pads for the ducks, and surmised why these precautions were being taken, and suppose he then fired at the cop, mortally wounding him.
Even so, you lay the pads. The risk of doing so is acceptable. If everything goes wrong and the excellent officer should perish, I think we would call him a hero, lost in an important cause.
God fobid an epitaph is ever needed for a police officer who loses his life laying duck-pads beneath the nest, but (as you know) we should always be prepared for any surprises that fate holds in store: To the Glory of God And in Memory of Winton Lucius Pinwill Died in Duty Defending the defenseless And the Honor of Civilized Man Peace Be Upon Thee And upon Thy House Forever