Purplevania: A Parable of Tolerance, Dance & Death

The people of Purplevania, more than any country on earth, loved ballroom dance.

The waltz. The tango. The fox-trot and the quick-step. The paso doble and the rumba. Year after year, the greatest ballroom dancers in the world came from Purplevania.

Yet all was not sunshine and roses.

Purplevania endured a minor yet long-running dispute about ballroom dancing lessons.

Some people in Purplevania believed that everyone deserved free ballroom dance lessons. They loved the beauty of ballroom dance, the thrill of competition, the benefits of exercise and the really cool hairstyles.

Others believed that no one deserved free ballroom dance lessons. They were not against ballroom dance lessons. They too loved the beauty of ballroom dance, the thrill of competition, the benefits of exercise and the really cool hairstyles.

They believed that any Purplevanian who wanted ballroom dance lessons should pay for those lessons themselves rather than forcing all Purplevanians to pay for them.

For decades, the two groups of Purplevanians lived in peace with one another. Each group thought the other was wrong, but each group tolerated  the other’s contrary beliefs.

It was a peaceful, happy and beautiful time to be alive.

Until one day, when…

A charismatic, powerful figure rose to a position of power: Fabulous Frederick Flaminco

Fab Fred, (as his supporters called him), was a fiery speaker, aflame with passion for ballroom dance. He believed – passionately – that everyone deserved free ballroom dance lessons. On the strength of that message, he was elected Prime Minister by the narrowest of margins.

In a stunning departure from Purplevanian traditions, he commanded the creation of a special committee charged with collecting money from all Purplevanians to fund free dance lessons for all.

Naturally, the Free Dance Lessons for Everyone crowd loved Fab Fred.

The other crowd – the “if you want it, then pay for it” crowd – was horrified.

“Why are we forced to pay for other people’s dance lessons”, they rightly asked. “It violates our beliefs!”

They two groups of Purplevanians had coexisted for decades with those differing opinions. But now, one group had chosen “progress” over “peaceful coexistence” and was forcing their beliefs on the other group.

Of course, this story ends as all true stories do: with death.

A civil war broke out.

Purplevanians by the thousands were killed, wounded and horribly maimed by the war. Purplevania lost its stature as the ballroom dance capital of the world. The war destroyed all the ballroom dance studios and killed most of the teachers.

No more champions ever came from Purplevania again.

In the end, Fabulous Frederick Flamingo was deposed and fled the country to live out the rest of his life in Argentina, (naturally).

Some people still loved him. Some would forever revile his name.

Purplevania never recovered.

Today, where once there was prosperity, happiness, art, beauty and cooperation, there is only poverty, pain, sickness, destruction and suspicion.

And very few Purplevanians even remember how to dance.


 

Believe whatever you want. But let other people believe whatever they want, too. It’s not okay to force other to pay for your beliefs. Everyone loses in that situation.

 

Essential Readings for MLK Day

Martin Luther King

Every year on MLK Day, I like to read MLK’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail.  It reminds me of where we’ve been and where we thought we were going.  Where we are is much better than where we were and not nearly as good as where we are going.

In his I Have a Dream speech, he verbalized his hope that one day his children would be judged by “the content of their character” rather than the color of their skin. Who today has the moral courage to stand up and demand that we judge them by the content of their character rather than by their membership in some group or another?

Yeah. No one.

Non-violent civil disobedience was King’s weapon of choice for effecting change in his country. He believed that by provoking moral outrage in average Americans, he could direct their anger and their power towards creating a moral revolution in society.

His recipe for positive, non-violent change as described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom included these 6 observations:

  1. Nonviolence is not passive, but requires courage
  2. Nonviolence seeks reconciliation, not defeat of an adversary
  3. Nonviolent action is directed at eliminating evil, not destroying an evil-doer
  4. A willingness to accept suffering for the cause, if necessary, but never to inflict it
  5. A rejection of hatred, animosity or violence of the spirit, as well as refusal to commit physical violence
  6. Faith that justice will prevail

The core of King’s message was libertarianism wrapped in a strong faith in the essential goodness of his fellow American citizens. That’s still a potent formula for change.

It is good that we remind ourselves of his words, his deeds and his results.