Thursday, April 2, 2015

Barbed Wire

The city was covered with barbed wire. It divided every neighborhood from every other. Some neighborhoods were bigger and some were smaller, but all were enclosed. All the enclosures had gates, but most had people standing at the gates to examine you when you came in. Some looked tough, gimlet-eyed, ready to block any undesirables from entering. Others looked laid-back, amicable, ready to accept all comers. There were enclosures where the gate was practically so broken down anyone could walk in. But the fences remained.

The man made his way into the city by weaving his way around the fences. He noticed that all the enclosures had names and lists of rules on their fences. A lot of the names were complicated and seemed to convey little or nothing. And while there were considerable changes in the rules from one end of the city to the other, many nearby enclosures showed little or no difference.

The man went up to a guard by one of the gates and asked, "What's the difference between you and that enclosure over there? You seem to have almost the same set of rules."

He received in return a long story about how they came out of different groups that originally came from different parts of the old country.

"But why don't you just forget that and get together?" asked the man.

"We do things different," replied the guard.

The man came up to another enclosure which had the name "Just Christian." But they seemed to have as many rules as the other enclosures.

"We got tired of all the enclosures, so we decided to break off," explained the guard. "Anyone who wants to be just Christian the same way we are is welcome."

The man passed a number of enclosures with alert guards and signs on the fences that said, "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors." (He seemed somehow to remember that this was out of context.) "Why are you so firm about keeping people out?" the man asked the guards on one fence.

"We have to keep out the riff-raff from the other side of town," they replied. "Besides, there are some people who have houses painted all sorts of fancy colors and there are others who have houses that are old-fashioned and elaborate. We prefer the simple, homey style."

"But couldn't you just let everyone build their house the way they want to?"

"Why would we want to do that?" they replied.

The man noticed there were others who seemed to be visiting with their neighbors across the fence. Some even got together for group hugs. But the fences still remained intact.

"Doesn't anyone ever try to tear down any of the fences?" the man asked one of the huggers.

"Some do. But they are generally over in the broad-minded part of the city," replied the hugger. "And there are always new fences being built."

The man wondered if there was a hardware store nearby where he could buy a pair of wire-cutters.

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