Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Giant with No Heart in His Body: A Fable for Our Time


Once there was a King and a Queen with seven sons. When they became young men, six went off to woo the children of a neighboring King and Queen. The seventh, named Justice, stayed home with his parents. On their way home with their new wives and husband (one opted for a male partner), the brothers passed a house where a Giant lived. The Giant saw them passing and turned them all into stone.

When the sons did not return, Justice went to find them. On his way he met a hungry Raven and generously shared his food. He met a Salmon who had been tossed out of the river and put him back in the water. He met a starving Wolf who asked if he could eat the Justice's old horse and he reluctantly agreed. All three vowed to return Justice's help some day. Justice was skeptical about how they could ever help him, but nevertheless, bid each a fond farewell.

Justice came to the Giant’s house, where he saw his brothers and spouses turned to stone. He entered the house and met the princess who lived with the giant. She agreed to help him free his brothers and explained that the Giant’s power came from the fact that he had no heart in his body. She hid Justice in the house and each night for three nights, asked the Giant where he kept his heart. Two times he lied to her but on the third night, finally relented and explained:

“Far away in a lake lies an island; on that island stands a church; in that church is a well; in that well swims a duck’ in that duck there is an egg and in that egg lies my heart.”

The next morning, Justice thanked the princess, stepped out the door and found the Wolf waiting for him. He rode on the Wolf’s back to the island and stayed on his back as the Wolf swam across the lake. The church was locked, but the Raven came and took down the keys hanging high in a tower. Then the Salmon came to fetch the egg from the bottom of the well.

Justice now squeezed the egg in his hand and heard the Giant scream and ask for pity and said he would do anything if only Justice would not squeeze his heart in two. Justice said that if he unfroze his brothers and spouses he had turned to stone, he would spare his life. The Giant did what was asked.

And then Justice squeezed the egg in two and the Giant fell down dead.

So that’s where we are. We have a so-called leader with no heart in his body who each day, freezes (or attempts to freeze) another tenet of common human decency and democratic rule. The Muslim Ban, transgender in military, tax breaks for the rich, exemption from sexual misconduct, protecting national parks, refusing needed gun laws—well, there’s the six brothers and we can easily come up with six more for their spouses. Determined to thaw the frozen workings of a faux-democracy, Justice sets off and befriends unlikely helpers, not for a political deal , but from the sincere kindness of his heart, not expecting anything in return. Helped by the princess (Melania?), he finds out what he needs to know and indeed, the unlikely helpers (the high school students rising up?) appear and get things moving. After a long period of “nevertheless persisting” (a year and six months?), Justice finally holds the egg in his hand (the final step of the Mueller investigation?).

Now note that the Giant in our metaphor is not just the Toddler-in-Chief, but a long list of Republicans who have hid their hearts away. Steve Bannon, Steve Pruit, Betsy DeVos, Sarach Huckabee-Sanders, Sean Spicer, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, etc. etc. and again etc. Their hearts are so buried that they think nothing of accusing grieving students who had just seen their classmates murdered of being "fake crisis actors" and being dupes of the libtards.

But here is Justice in the form of Parkland student Emma Gonzales speaking at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington DC yesterday. A high school student teaching all those calloused adults what real grief and love looks like. She stands in front of thousands and puts faces and names and stories on the “collateral damage of the NRA.” And then she does something extraordinary. She stands in a deep silence looking straight into the face of what’s going down, allowing tears to come without buckling under, holding the full measure of pain and grief for the full six minutes it took for the shooter to kills 17 young people. In that silence is an eloquence that speaks what this nation needs to hear. 

And equally, 11-year old Naomi Wadler speaking of the African-American victims of gun violence who don't make the national headlines because…well, you know why. And as more and more people like this courageous young woman speak up and put names and faces on the victims and tell the stories we keep trying not to tell because then we'd have to face our murderous heart and finally grieve for Emmet Till and the countless others like him, well, just maybe we'll finally start to listen.And if we listen deeply, we will hold that egg with all the hearts these shameless politicians have hid away, we will hold that egg in our hands.

We will start to squeeze and the Giants, who can dish it out but not take it, will cry and scream and ask for pity. We’ll make our demands and they’ll do what they can to keep their privilege of power. And in some modern-day fairy tale land, some would have us stop squeezing, shake hands and forgive and go off golfing together.

But the story is more stern than that. Don’t believe that a lifetime of cultivated privilege and willingness to do harm for personal power and greed will turn around so easily. Squeeze that egg in two. Without hesitation.

And I’m not talking about assault rifles here. I’m talking about using our power at the polls to vote them out and never let them return. And using our power to educate the young and rehabilitate some of the brainwashed voters.

I believe the egg is in our hands and it’s time to start squeezing. And then, the end of the story that actually has no end:

The sons and daughters returned home and there was a great wedding feat and the mirth was loud and long; and if they are not done feasting, why, they are still at it!

PS The original story is an old Norwegian folk tale. You can find a version in Joanna Cole's Best Loved Folk-Tales of the World.

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