Friday, July 31, 2020

Sleeping Beauty Revisited

The King and the Queen announced a party to celebrate the birth of their child. There were thirteen wise women in the land, but because they only had twelve places at their table, they left out one in their invitations. The excluded woman was furious and just when the 11thwoman had finished given her blessing and wishes for the princess, she burst into the party scene and gave a curse: “When she turns 16, the princess shall prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die!” The last wise woman had one more blessing to bestow and couldn’t reverse the curse, but was able to soften it: “She shall not die but fall into a deep sleep.”

The King’s response was to burn all spinning wheels in the land, but naturally, one remained in the attic of the castle and sure enough, the princess happened upon it on her 16thbirthday, pricked her finger and fell into a deep slumber. In fact, the whole castle fell asleep for a hundred years and giant thorns grew around it.

One day a handsome prince was riding in the woods, got lost and stumbled upon the castle. He broke through the thorns, entered the castle, kissed the sleeping princess and all were awakened. 

So goes the old tale. But the modern version is that the people throwing the party were the Founding Fathers and the people they chose not to invite were Native Americans, enslaved Africans and women. Or rather, they invited them only as unpaid servants to cater the affair. The country unknowingly pricked its finger and fell asleep for 244 years. The prince awakened it with his kiss, but turned out he was a carrier of COVID and while people awakened, they were confined to the castle to reflect on and atone for their sins.

And so the end of July marks the fifth month of sheltering and each day, more people awaken while the King continues to spin his wheel of lies and surround the castle with Federal troops. But though some prefer to stay asleep, it’s too late. And the awakening kiss doesn’t come from some blond-haired blue-eyes macho stud prince, but a gay African-American woman poet. And when the people awoke, they deposed the King and threw him in the dungeon and began the real work of re-imagining the country anew, this time with all the excluded people sitting at the table.

This the story for our times.

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