Dan has learned to fly.
"Learned to fly" may be something of an over-statement, since he's still not allowed to fly in public air space, but he's trying his wings all over the farm. He won't go by land if he can go by air, now. The kids have recruited him for their games; they've rigged a kind of crossbow which shoots grass stems a couple of meters, and Dan flies along and catches them and pretends to die, falling out of the sky. Sometimes he is an enemy warrior, sometimes a marauding animal, sometimes an evil alien. Yes, the kids play "alien attack," and the fact that I AM an alien seems to bother them not one bit.
Actually, I suppose the enemy warrior is probably an invading Imperial, making Dan's participation ironic, too. While I do find it a bit disturbing that so many of these children's games involve pretending to be attacked by something (at least they always have themselves win), they do have the impressive ability to differentiate between the personal and the political. As I understand it, the Imperial invasion remains quite real, and much of the way the La'heli's live is a subtle act of resistance, yet individually the Imperials are not evil--they are not even a distinct "them." And while the governments I represent are friendly and respectful, that could change someday--and of course, we are not the only kind of alien. So the children are right to trust both Dan and I, yet psychologically prepare themselves to fight that which we represent.
You know, thinking about this, the bravery of these people in welcoming us astounds me. Individually I am continually struck by the fearlessness of most Myrmeoids with respect to me. If I so much as fell over in a crowded street I could become a mass murderer. I am such a giant. And yet when I go into town, most of the people just ignore me. Sometimes people come up to introduce out-of-town friends to me, or to suggest some kind of business deal, but that's about it. I go to a store to buy something, and of course I can't go inside, so I just sit down in the street and say something--everyone in town recognizes my voice now, to the shop clerks will come outside to take my order--and traffic parts around me as though a giant sitting in the street were the most ordinary thing in the world. And I haven't quite been here two years yet!
But of course, I really wouldn't hurt any of these people, so the fact that I can hurt them is irrelevant. I am very careful when I walk in crowded places. But can I swear that my species will never hurt theirs? No, I can't. And it's not because they're small that they're vulnerable, it's because we have them outgunned. They could have all of our technological wonders; they are smart enough, and in some ways their technology is more developed than ours. But they've chosen, the entire planet, to simply not have the industrial revolution.Credit--or blame--the fact that they had a nearly planetary dictatorship at the time when the steam engine was developed. I'm a bit fuzzy on the details--and there are books on this on Earth, so you can look it up--but it was something like the Imperial leadership feared that fossil fuel could be the beginning of an arm's race they might not win. After all, there are vast coal and oil deposits in the continental interiors where Imperial power has always been weak. They were always a naval power, principally. The native peoples in the interiors, for their part, feared that fossil fuel could free the imperials from the water and make their power total. So between the two groups, they pulled off a planetary ban on fossil fuel use that remains in force to this day. And their planet is the better for it. I can't tell you how green and how...diverse? this place is. It's like, everywhere you look is some new and different live thing, it's incredible. But the people here have no air force, no anti-aircraft or anti-missile capability, and no capacity to get anything much beyond low planetary orbit.
Maybe it's their pragmatism; they'd rather make friends while they can, so our people will protect theirs if the political wind ever shifts--if so, it's working, as I'd certainly stand with them if I had to. Not like I could do much of anything. Or maybe I've underestimated them; they do have an understanding of chemistry and biochemistry we can only dream of.
Look at this; what a weird and impolitic thing for me to be writing about! It speaks volumes about both our species' governments that I can even consider publishing something like this. I'm sure it will make some people angry. And yet, something about my mission here seems to include looking at these people directly, and honestly reporting my thoughts and impressions, not simply communicating soundbites and talking points. I didn't mean to write about any of this stuff today; I was just going to tell you about Dan learning to fly. But I won't delete it.