Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there was a happy traveling salesman, who loved selling things near and far, even though he missed his family dearly while away.
One day, the good king died, and a bad king came to power in his stead.
Things turned dark for the people of the kingdom.
The salesman could barely provide for his family.
One day the salesman got an idea.
Perhaps he and some others could ride their horses and camels and elephants together towards the capital city, making a spectacle as they went, stirring up the hearts of their kinsfolk and countrymen.
Maybe then, they reasoned, people who liked the king would start to see just how awful he was. Because as they waved their banners and sang and served each other and gave hope to the country, they would show a bright light of love in stark contrast to the darkness and fear and dishonesty of the ruler and his regime.
“No, no,” some cried. “You’ll only make things worse. The tyrant and his fellow schemers will punish us all for your insubordination.”
“Why not simply go on strike,” others said. “Less work. More effective.”
“And what about the next kingdom over?” Still others chimed in. “They’re such a nuisance.”
But the salesman and his friends were determined.
So they set out one day from a place in the desert, a dry windy place where few dared to live.
They would ride from one end of the land to the other, and make a circle around the city where the bad king sat on his throne.
Of course his guards were already waiting. Spies had already been sent to travel among the motley caravan. Word had spread far and wide, even beyond the kingdom’s borders.
The news of the day was spread by bird and messenger alike. The newsmakers, most of whom answered directly to the king and his cronies, spread rumors of impending violence, and cast doubt on the character of the salesman and his friends
But most of all, they kept the people distracted with mindless entertainment, or rumors of faraway tumults.
I don’t want to spoil the end of this little story, but can I just pause and ask you something?
If you were the salesman’s wife, or his best friend, or his children, what you want him to do?
All right, now then. Back to the tale.
So the salesman set out with his old horse and wagon, with provisions for weeks gathered up with the help of his family and friends.
Some set out with him on their camels, some with elephants, and many on horses, though I think I remember seeing a few llamas and kangaroos and whichaburras in there too. It was very long ago.
Two weeks went by like a dream, as the caravan rode for the capital. Thousands joined up with it, or poured in from other parts of the land, assembling just outside the majestic city walls of the capital.
The tyrant, as it turned out, was a measly old braggart, mostly skin and bones and wind, little fight in him.
But he was controlled by elite ruling families of his day, and I don’t need to tell you about them, for some of them still rule much of the world together.
Anyway, the Day of the Showdown came.
Tens of thousands of good people gathered together outside the great city, singing songs, cheering together, praying, waving their beloved flag, telling stories of glorious days past, and filling children’s ears and hearts with hopes and dreams of lovely days to come.
The king didn’t dare come out to meet them, but his masters told him exactly what to do. He sent word to the newsmakers to spread fear and doubt about the assembled multitude.
It wasn’t a peaceful display, they crooned.
It was a horde! An army, yes, that’s what it was. Dissidents … detractors … radicals! Reading the stories about them, and not meeting or riding with them, you would think they had devil’s horns and demon’s breath, and probably kicked puppies for fun.
The Showdown didn’t last very long, as I recall. The salesman and his friends had learned something very important in their trade:
Go as far as you need to go, then stop, and go home.
They spent some days outside the city, glorying in peace, reveling in freedom, refusing to be anything like the scary stories.
On the final day of the Showdown, they ended with a mighty bout of singing and prayer, and each dispersed to his or her home, however far away.
The evil ones were exposed as liars, the corrupt newsmakers began to lose listening ears, and the people started to hold together as never before.
They didn’t need the old news. They could BE the news for each other.
They didn’t need the stupid lying scumbag on his soiled throne, or his stinky cronies.
They had each other and the gods who brought them the sun, the rain, and songs to sing.
All you can do, sometimes, is show people the truth. Because they won’t listen to all the telling in the world.
Ask any good salesman.
I hope somewhere there is a descendant of that salesman, sitting perhaps in a schoolroom somewhere, or on a hilltop, mind lost in fantasy of a world where love and truth reign, and not so much hatred and confusion.