May 20, 2006
Migrations: a Socio-Political ParableBy C. MacLeod Fuller
You live at Number 1 Constitution Street. It is a lovely white house, quite something more than the cottage you had when first wed. There are no barriers between you and your peaceful neighbors.
You live a quiet life with the wife and children, a lazy cat, and a playful drooling golden retriever. These are the only animals in this fable and will not be mentioned again.
You work hard at a good—paying job, and your bride is not only able to make the household run smoothly while balancing her part—time job with volunteer work at the local hospital and library, but your children have good values as well as manners — saying 'Yes, Ma'am' and 'No, Sir' to virtually anyone over 21.
Your entire family attends church regularly. You save money, invest for the children's college education, take a nice vacation trip once every few years, and pay your taxes on time.
You wonder why the local newspaper seems always filled with the most miserable of news items, yet feel the need to be informed — so continue to subscribe and try to separate the wheat from the chaff for yourself.
Your house sits on a large square lot which is blessed with a small seasonal garden and a nice stand of trees across the back to lend privacy and an anticipatory sense of something unknown beyond. Your children love to play there; you and your wife occasionally gravitate to its peace and shade and sense of removal from daily cares and strife.
Then, one day,... a neighbor from down the street on the other side of the tracks (who seems terminally down on his luck) shows up and asks if he can mow your lawn. Being big hearted you of course say, 'Certainly,' and pay him. But not too much.
Pretty soon it becomes a regular thing.
Not long after, another neighbor from down the street asks if he can tend your small garden plot. This request would remove another of your seemingly endless daily obligations; plus you imagine his opportunities, housing, education — possibly entire life history — to be an economic shambles. So you say, 'Certainly. I'd be delighted to help.' Presently, he is on the payroll too.
When summer rolls around, his wife and children appear and vigorously work your garden as well, not merely expanding it a few feet but making it far more productive by their dedicated hard work. You are dutifully impressed and praise them. You share with them the wealth produced, and pass more about to the rest of the neighborhood. Even across the nearby lake.
From your well—kept and nicely polished five—year—old car, you see these hard working folks walking on their way to church most Sundays. You wave to one another. You exchange pleasantries. Phatic communication. You are convinced all is well.
Time passes, and another neighbor from further south on your street appears to help with the garden and the picking of fruit from the trees growing about your grounds. Because it is such a long walk home, he pitches a tiny tent — but it is fully concealed by the trees of the small forest of your backyard. So you allow it.
One day, taking a walk in the sunshine to clear your mind, you find not only has the tiny tent been replaced by a lean—to fashioned from large branches stripped from your trees, but inside are several men and women whom you have never before encountered. They all smile benignly and in unison say, 'Welcome to Number 1 Constitution Street.'
You are quite perplexed, but being a kindly, generous (not to mention busy) soul, do nothing.
Shortly thereafter, a child of one of these friendly folk's falls from your children's swing set and suffers both a concussion and a broken arm. When his parents don't pay the hospital for its ambulance, emergency, and acute care services, its administrators send the bill to you at their home address.
Curiously, you pay it — despite nagging but as yet undifferentiated thoughts regarding Stockholm Syndrome. Their precious little boy, your curious and caring spouse subsequently discovers, is one of the many kids whom you hadn't earlier seen in the lean—to. They attend tax—supported public schools — and are doing well. Of course, overall class learning slowed in order to accommodate their diminished language facility and lack of pre—classroom educational exposure or expectation.
Your children eventually stop playing at the back of your property because it has lost more than just its imaginary charm. Subsequent to their complaints, you and your wife take another walk and find the lean—to occupied by people neither of you have ever seen and discover a small (but very neat) house has been erected among the trees. More are under construction. Several families there—abouts smile and wave and say, 'Welcome to Number 1 Constitution Street,' as the two of you pass. Your woods are notably thinner.
So are your options. But you do nothing.
Back in your kitchen, your wife remarks, 'Honey? Should, uh—h, shouldn't we,... uh—h....'
And you reply, 'Well, yes, certainly, we should, uh—h....'
And there the matter stands. Until later it sinks with the setting sun.
Next thing you know, you receive a congratulatory note accompanied by another bill from the hospital. Three of your new homesteaders have delivered beautiful bouncing babies.
A week thereafter, you receive a third bill — this one for an old man who bought the tiny tent and suffered a heart attack attempting to set it up. Bewildered, you nevertheless pay these as well.
You ponder the fact that none of your neighbors up the street nor across the lake seem to have such a steady diet of need, neither do they make seemingly unlimited requests—cum—demands upon you and your heirs. More and more your children now play only in the front yard and have new revelations concerning both the use and meaning of your front door. Interesting words enter their vocabularies.
Though you continue receiving plentiful bounty from the garden, a modicum of doubt at last creeps (on mercilessly miniscule tippy—toes) into your psyche. Something. You are losing some important something. What can it be? Neither snark, nor windmill, nor road of yellow hue. Perhaps Arden, or Goshen, white whale of ocean blue?
This doesn't sink in of course because it rhymes. Too abstruse, obtuse. And unfortunately, both you and your wife fail to lift either a finger or twitch sufficient neuronal synapses toward discovery, much less resolution, of your communal dis—ease.
Despite the burgeoning garden and fruit trees extraordinaire (not to mention a Manichean manicured lawn that is envied far and wide), the people encamped in your little forest of trees have begun to also expect contributory feeding of their families from your pantry. They are, however, very cordial about it.
That is until one day when you lapse into a fringe bout of clarity and announce, 'Enough. I believe it is time for you to all proceed to your own homes.'
Their instant reply is of course, 'Number 1 Constitution Street is our home. Thank you very much.' They smile and wave, then an unidentified voice adds, 'and by the way, isn't it time you hand over the deed for editing?'
Naturally, you refuse.
At first your working—lodging neighbors are merely grievously, vocally sullen, reminding you each morning as you leave for work that without them there would be no one to meticulously trim your lawn; passionately weed, feed, and tend your garden; nor pamper, foster and pick the magnificent fruit your trees now produce. You would, they most convincingly scold, even have to wash and polish your own car, not to mention bus your own restaurant dishes. Still, they do smile and wave to your children — all of whom, you've recently discovered, are being systematically mentally euthanized with something called multicultural value—added bilinguisticated diversity training as an adjunct to their ethno—civilizational moral relativity curricula.
When you announce you are considering suspending pantry food supplementation as well as no longer paying their future medical bills, the homesteaders become irate. When you call in an architect whom they see measure your yard for a fence, they become brazen and commence marching in ever—tightening elliptical circumnavigations of your house, carrying signs sporting clever non—iambic doggerel like, 'This land was your land, this land is my land,' 'Totally Unrestricted Migrational Opportunity Region,' and 'Constitution St. — your home away from there'. They block your exit to work, your children's progress to school, and, of course, your path to the garden. Far in the back of all this, a small group fondling various craftsman tools huddle together beneath a sign which reads, ' Veni, vidi, vici.'
Soon this assemblage has changed the words to your favorite songs, and as they march around your house, sing and sling them derisively at you. In the night, someone steals into your home, changes the locks, the answering machine message, and the settings on your stereo. Next morning, this latest invasion having roused your full attention, you quickly decide to offer an olive branch to the squatters by playing soothing classical music through the patio speakers for their listening enjoyment. A rock promptly hurled through your window is saddled by a rallying cry, 'Hey! You in the house! That's not what I want to hear. Don't you understand, yet? YOU must accommodate ME, now.'
When you stupidly shout, 'Why?' though the gaping hole, you are confounded (but should not be) to hear regurgitated,
'Because you are on the inside! But I deserve to be there, where you are! Now that I have worked at this house, I should have everything you do. It is only fair!'
Thinking to yourself that the only 'fair' you know about comes but once each year and you've always had to pay admission to get in, you turn the music off, and lie down for a nap.
Sometime thereafter you awake to the sound of chainsaws and much hammering. Wishfully deciding the whole embarrassing situation will surely go away if you just ignore it a little bit longer, you turn over to rest upon your other cheek. But eventually your ears begin to hear a distinctive disturbing thump, irregularly repeated. It sharply slices through your sleep every few minutes and causes you to rise. Unable to withstand the suspense, you peek from a rear window and behold a cluster of tree stumps before which sits an odd—looking contraption assembled on your lawn, just outside the backyard forest you can now quite plainly see.
The device has a distant, unnerving familiarity. One end of it is tall; very tall. Two stout, squared, almost stately posts rise skyward from a level, waist—high platform which is about the width of a gang plank, the length of a bed, and built upon a dauntingly solid wooden frame. A thick rope runs down the side of one of the posts. Suspended from the cross beam at the stanchions' upper limit is a gleaming heft of metal, acutely angled from the horizon of your lawn. Vaguely you think, that more than anything else, it resembles a razor held against the sky. Preposterous. Directly beneath this glitter, waiting, dangerously picaresque and empty on the ground, rests a large handsomely—woven wicker basket. Several halved watermelons lay about the grass, their red meat and seed spilled as if by a whirlwind—guided scythe. They keep company with an incautious number of neatly—severed cylindrical lengths of thigh—thick tree trunk. Your former supplicants wave and smile once they notice you staring down from the rear window. A wind is up in the west.
Brush and pail in hand, a member of the work party backs away from this device so you can clearly see the newly painted words in red along their machination's frame: 'liberte, egalite, fraternite.'
It is you who is expected, at this juncture, to obey the new holy trinity of give, give—in, and give—up.