Fairy Tales & Homeland Security

How to get the government to fund reading programs

“Little Red Riding Hood,” illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith

I’m on a campaign to get kids to read more children’s literature but the folks in the government aren’t listening. After my third federal grant application was turned down, in 2004 I turned to an expert in fund-raising for advice: “All the money is going to Homeland Security,” she explained, “if you can tie a project to that, you’re a sure thing.” That’s when I dreamed up my new project: “Teaching Preemptive Thinking: Fairy Tales and Homeland Security.” Of course, as part of these grant applications, the Money People always want samples of tasks to be performed and indications of what children will actually learn. I provide five here:

1) Hansel and Gretel are being held in the Gingerbread House by the Witch, who operates with impunity under the doctrine of territorial integrity. Assuming Hansel and Gretel are U.S. citizens, what argument can you fashion to justify an invasion of Fairyland?

Also considered U.S. territories are U.S. military installations abroad and residences of overseas personnel. By the same logic, we might argue that our interests extend to foreign locations of American-owned businesses and, for example, restaurants abroad frequented by Americans. Under what might be called the “McDonald’s Doctrine,” we can conclude that all places Americans visit lie within our territorial interests. Since Hansel and Gretel are American citizens, and since they are visiting or inhabiting the Gingerbread House, Fairyland might be considered as much a “territory of American interest” as North Dakota and an invasion justified.

2) The Thirteenth Fairy has pronounced a curse that on her fifteenth birthday the princess will prick her finger on a spindle and fall into a 100-year sleep. So, that his daughter does not become the Sleeping Beauty, the king has banned spindles in Fairyland. What could the American government do?

Faced with a credible threat (who knows how many princesses might be subject to similar curses?) and given the ineffective nature of bans on WMDs (viz. spindles), the American government should step forward and demand that the citizens of Fairyland surrender all their spindles. If they claim they have none, we should invade on grounds of “non-cooperation.” If post-invasion searches turn up no spindles, we should point out that cursing alone is a punishable offense.

3) The Wolf has been harassing the Three Little Pigs, blowing their houses down. How could things have gotten so far in Fairyland? Using preemptive thinking, what would you have done?

Wolves, per se, are bad (see “Big Bad Wolf”; see Little Red Riding Hood). Just as a certain person can be a “Bad Man,” and since badness is bad, the Wolf should have been in preventive detention. In order to effect this, an American grand jury should find against him in abstentia. With just cause, then, an American force can be dispatched to surgically extricate the Wolf from Fairyland in order to quarantine him, preferably in a military brig.

4) The prince has fallen in love with Cinderella but her evil stepmother has hidden her. The prince’s only means of tracking her down is her lost slipper but that means trying the shoe on every maiden in Fairyland. If this happened today, what would you advise the Prince to do?

Since the Prince is a ruler, and since his happiness influences the well being of Fairyland, the finding of Cinderella might be viewed as a National Security issue. 1) Under that proviso, it would be possible to monitor phone conversations and email, provided these are limited only to marriageable maidens in Fairyland. 2) A DNA sample might be taken from the shoe and matched against a national database. 3) Warrant-less, sneak-and-peak searches might be conducted on the households of Fairyland in order to find the other matching shoe. 4) Library records might be examined to see if anyone has recently taken out a book on dressmaking.

5) The Emperor buys from some cronies a garment that is said to be magical; supposedly, only the patriotic can see it and it is invisible to those who are unpatriotic. In fact, the garment doesn’t exist and the Emperor has been tricked. One day, the Emperor wears this nonexistent garment at a parade and many people, having heard about its magic reputation, “Ooh” and “Ah” about the clothing they pretend to see. But a little child shouts out, “He’s naked” and some people begin to laugh. What would you do to prevent the Emperor further embarrassment?

Issue a gag order to the child’s parents and encourage others at the parade to submit the equivalent of our S.A.R. (Suspicious Activity Report) to a “tips” website that has been well advertised. Fairyland’s government might also (ahem) provide handsome grants to the deserving in order to reeducate children by means of stories.

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05. November 2016 by
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