The eagle and the dragon
By Brett Daniel Shehadey
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They could not be more different, the United States of America and the People's Republic of China. They are two worlds and two great majestic creatures: one of unrelenting courage and the other of profound mystery.
The bald eagle defines the bold America. The mythical eastern dragon characterizes the subtle China. These symbols represent the personality, culture and political behavior of these two states no matter what institution or regime may be in power at any given time. For some reason, both national populations have desired to
see themselves and fashion themselves after these strange creatures of nature and imagination.
So how do they compare?
The eagle is prideful on its perch with wings spread wide, the downward beaming gaze. It has only one mode of movement which is the power of flight. It would not wish to hop on the ground like those beneath it and be utterly humiliated. It will only swoop down for an instant or parade the grounds when there are few onlookers or reason enough to do so. With a fixed purpose, a keen vision, a visible flight path and a singular direction, the eagle knows exactly what it wants, where it is, and it is just as clear to everyone else what it is thinking and planning.
The dragon is in many ways the eagle's opposite. It is hidden and made invisible by a cloak of magic. It is secretive, careful, and ever watching from a distant cloudy realm. It has no discernible objective like the eagle; and this makes it nearly impossible to predict. With no clear way of motion, no straight path, one moment the dragon vanishes and the other the dragon appears before the unsuspecting.
The dragon too flies but not in the same style as the eagle. It does not soar and despises being put on display for fear of becoming a trophy. If it chooses to fly, it is usually concealed in clouds and not for hunting prey but for evasion. The dragon can also slither close to the ground making little or no sound. It can crawl, swim the seas or coil in defense - it is not limited in transport but lacks coherent purpose.
An eagle is all about the next meal. The eagle spends most of its time working the skies and peering below, feeding the children and being the most vigilant of guardians. It is of the highest order of nature with its intelligence and ability to set itself above others. It touts its status and abilities with ferocity and seeks vengeance on those that disrupts its nest.
A dragon is fascinated at the marvel and often the manipulation of humanity. Therefore, it is sometimes meddlesome in another's affairs and sometimes benevolently removed; bringing rain to crops or a great storm of ruin. It is of the celestial order, even above the natural order. It is therefore in its own mind confident and centered in being superior to all others but will not display this feature for fear of envy. The dragon therefore takes comfort not in the skies but beyond them in the heavens. It does not tout its status or ability but remains in hiding. It is largely contemplative whereas the eagle is consumed by consumption of an exterior world.
While the eagle is independent in directive, the dragon is social and influences others by the forces of nature. One through another, the dragon moves through. The eagle reigns through supremacy and force and the dragon reigns through the hierarchy and subtle arts.
The eagle has a place of rest that one can see but not reach. The dragon also has a place of dwelling that is difficult or impossible for mortals to travel and far removed from even the emperor.
While the eagles' talons are sharp enough for war, the dragon refuses to use its claw and fang as weapons. It instead attacks with cunning and clandestine arts. The dragon fights war indirectly and with the help of things unimaginable by the enemy. The only real predators of eagles maybe hunters of eagles but the dragon 's real predator is when they are outmaneuvered, discovered and overpowered.
Almost everything about the eagle can be observed without much effort but almost nothing can be observed or learned from the dragon . One therefore knows what an eagle is about to do but almost nobody knows what a dragon will do.
They exist in two separate worlds, but if they ever came together, would they ever get along?
The dragon never liked the pride of the eagle, which seemed out of place. It would manipulate the eagle for a time. The eagle would realize it was being cajoled eventually and seek a fight with an enemy that had shifted from what it once was before. The dragon , now radically changed in size and shape, would use its cunning and magic against the eagle. The eagle would try to dive bomb the dragon and tear at it with its sharp powerful talons but alas, the dragon had raised an army where the eagle was all alone…
Our symbols are the best emblems of historic nationhood and general characterizations of what a given population wants to become. They are the collective models and features to be highlighted. Substitute US for the eagle and China for the dragon and you have your insightful hint into what these nations are really about.
Brett Daniel Shehadey is a writer, commentator and holds an MA in Strategic Intelligence from AMU and a BS in Political Science from UCLA.