aliens and bullies will always lose - and always return

Virtually all nations, with the interesting and almost unique exception of ourselves, have had to deal with invading armies, but, whether initially successful or even when the conqueror seems to have prevailed, eventually what is alien is repelled or removed.

In the meantime, what a catalog of crimes and what incredible waste, has described those wars and those occupations!

How can we not see the folly of our own imperial ventures around the world, especially the latest, most dramatic example unfolding in Iraq today? Is it because we have no history ourselves and because we do not know that of the rest of the world?

Turning the corner now in this post, as eventually we will in the Middle East as well, we can imagine the ultimate defeat of the bully.

It helps if we can believe in the power of art, since it can aid our understanding and endurance of the pain. I also believe that it can aid in destroying the evil itself.

Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner have collaborated on a children's picture book and a new theatrical production based on Hans Krasa's extraordinary opera "Brundibar" performed in the 1940's by children in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The story is about good triumphing over evil, represented by Brundibar, a fearsome organ grinder. In an early version of the book, Brundibar looked like Hitler. Now he is less specific, but in spirit, "he has to be Hitler," Mr. Sendak said, adding: "One of the most astonishing things is that the Nazis let that opera go on. I think that even they felt that a dramatic work had to have a villain."

In the book two small children in Prague try to get milk for their sick mother, traveling streets full of Sendak figures: a baker who is a double for Oliver Hardy, a goat that looks like Zlateh (in the I. B. Singer story).

Eventually the children find the money to buy milk and rescue their mother, and Brundibar is driven from the city because "the wicked never win." Mr. Kushner said recently, "It's the story of a bully defeated by collective action." But the villain has the last word: "Though I go, I won't go far . . . I'll be back."

Sendak thinks the children who performed Krasa's opera knew what was going on. "As human creatures, we're never as alert and as sensitive as we are when we are children. We can't allow ourselves to be."

I believe the artist is an important exception in his broad generalization, and that the burden of alertness and sensitivity in an adult can often be unbearable.