A Cautionary Tale

Not so long ago in the Kingdom of What If, the people found themselves struggling with complex issues.  The majority of What If citizens identified as either Foxes or Oxen.  While fundamentally different, the Oxen and Foxes had, for the most part, been able to live in harmony. Trouble started brewing slowly, as is typical of trouble, so that both the groups were able to continue to go about their merriment without giving too much thought to the discord.

Advances were made in technology, medicine and weapons and with each breakthrough the Oxen and Foxes found more to argue about.  Their tolerance levels dipped, then plunged, then for most Foxes and Oxen, simply disappeared.  Conversations became so difficult that they couldn’t discuss much beyond the weather without one or both groups becoming enraged.  After a while, even the weather was no longer a safe topic.  One group blamed the other for destroying the planet with practices that ate holes in the ozone and made the air and water toxic.  The other group blamed the first group saying they wanted to take away the hard-earned freedoms that had long been enjoyed in the Land of What If.  Soon, each group would become so angered at the other group that they would all yell at the same time and no one could hear any voice other than their own.  They didn’t talk anymore and when the conversations stopped the trust dissolved.

Things were already tough and stress was weakening the immune systems of both the Foxes and the Oxen.  They heard about a nasty disease on the other side of the world but they were way to busy pointing fingers and shouting insults at one another to think about the disease making its way to their fair kingdom.  Some tried to prepare by stocking up crazy amounts of essentials while others adopted an attitude of arrogance. For most, they just continued with arguing and insulting one another.

The thing about the virus was that it didn’t seem to understand that the land of What If was supposed to be impenetrable and the virus marched right on in despite the lack of welcome. The Oxen and and the Foxes were concerned, but also too vain to take it seriously. The virus didn’t blink an eye or have a second thought as it spread itself around the wealthiest and most powerful land in all the world.  It didn’t mock the Oxen or thumb it’s nose at the Foxes, it just paraded itself far and wide claiming the old and the weak. Viruses are rather wimpy in that way. Occasionally, it claimed a strong youth or wealthy mid-aged adult just to prove that it could.

The rulers of both the Oxen and the Foxes pleaded with their groups to take measures to stop the spread, but argued on what the measures should be. For awhile it slowed the virus down while the creatures stayed home whenever possible, and kept their distance from one another and covered their snouts.  For a brief period of time, some of the Oxen and Foxes forgot about their differences and they helped each other out.  Oxen were known to call their Fox neighbors and offer to pick up grocery items for them and leave them on the Foxes porches.  Foxes did things like set up virtual meetings so that families and businesses alike could look at one another on their screens while talking.  I am sad to tell you, dear reader, that for many the kindness and feelings of community didn’t last very long. The bickering, gossip and fake news returned with vengeance and increased ten-fold. The Oxen and the Foxes went back to their sour, putrid ways and blamed each other for the virus, the economy and the lack of supplies.

As spring turned to summer both the Oxen and the Foxes couldn’t deny that their problems were not limited to the virus.  Their economy was in shambles and their markets stumbled then crashed. They accused their neighbors of hoarding as they quietly bought weapons, ammunition and generators. They had an election coming up and they were all very nervous about how that would work.

Some wanted the voting process to go on just the same as it had before the pandemic; others were afraid that the gathering of voters could spread the virus and staying 6 feet apart would make for very long lines. There were rumors on both sides that the virus was intended to sway the election in favor of the opposing group. Mail-in ballots were made available for many but this raised alarm and fear.  Oxen said that sly Foxes would rig the election by mailing in multiple votes rather than one per person.  The Foxes claimed the Oxen would staff the voting places with their own poll workers and that they would rig the voting machines to not count the votes cast by Foxes.  Their bickering turned especially bitter.  They knitted their eyebrows together and glared at one another from behind their masks. Others decided that the virus wasn’t real and refused to wear masks and would not social distance while in public thus making others very uncomfortable.  Both Oxen and Foxes passed on rumors without taking the time to investigate their origin or validity.

They became so engrossed in blaming, hating, sanitizing, hoarding and stressing that they forgot that they had once worked together for the greater good.  They put aside things like compromise and caring and instead filled their lives with arrogance and hate.

While Foxes and Oxen worried about being cheated by one another the rabbits were quietly moving forward with their own plan. 

The Oxen, being large and strong, didn’t pay any attention to what they saw as harmless rabbits.  The quick, sly Foxes didn’t notice the rabbits either since they considered themselves to be much more intelligent than the timid bunnies.   Election Day did come to pass.  What happened on that day I can’t say for certain. As you know, history is told with the words of the victor.  What I can tell you is that the Kingdom of What If no longer exists.  It is now known as the Kingdom of If Only

Years later….

The remaining Foxes and Oxen quietly murmur to each other when they secretly gather after dark. They lament about times past and the words “if only” find their way into every conversation. Neither the Oxen or Foxes present any viable threat to the rabbits because they are so few in number. The oxen and foxes band together and begin to make plans.

The Rabbits are in control and not concerned about the needs of foxes or oxen. The once meek creatures are gradually becoming more and more focused on their own needs. Lettuce and carrot stocks soar while the rabbits become more self centered and greedy. Enough is no longer enough, the goal is always more, and then even more. Recently, during a convention of the rabbit leaders an influential and charismatic hare stepped up to the podium and delivered a passionate and influential speech. It started with the words, “What if...”

I don’t know the end of the story, perhaps, dear readers, you can tell me.

Thanks to the following for use off their photographs, JerenyVessey, Shane Rounce and Josh Carter and Priscilla Du Prez


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