Don't kill the messenger!
Once upon a time there was a young man who lived in the land
of Centralia, but in his travels he had met various folks in the remote little
land of Unamendia, and some others in an even more remote land, Cogaphia. To his
initial surprise, he had discovered among these "others" some kindred spirits,
folks who shared his most heartfelt beliefs and worldview -- individuals to whom
he felt at least as close as his fellow Centralians. True, some of the citizens
of these other lands were not the sort who inspired such warm, fuzzy feelings...
in fact, on more than one occasion, he was approached personally by other
denizens of Unamendia and Cogaphia with rather blunt and rude questions: "Why
are you, a Centralian, visiting here in our land?" "What mischief do you have in
mind?" "You must be a Centralian spy; are you going to carry back bad reports?"
Sometimes, he was strongly encouraged to leave the foreign lands, go back to his
"own kind", and never return. But he kept returning, because there were some
folks there who genuinely seemed to enjoy his company, and with whom he had some
heartwarming conversations and interactions.
Sometimes, when he did go back to his own land, he was
questioned by his countrymen: "What do you see in those Unamendians anyway? Some
of them are pretty strange characters." "How can you have anything to do with
those Cogaphians? Don't you know that some of them are highly undesirable?"
There were times when our young man thought, "Maybe I should
just move to Unamendia... or even to Cogaphia." But then he would think, "You
know, some of the Unamendians want no part of me... and some really are a little
strange... that might not be pleasant"... and "Some of those Cogaphians turn and
walk away when I get near... how would it be to live there fulltime?" Meanwhile,
he also recognized that, for all the questions and hard looks he received when
he returned home, he did have a lot of friends in Centralia, and it would be a
shame to leave them behind for good.
So for years he tried to live in two (actually, three)
different worlds... never quite at ease in any one of them, but never wanting to
turn his back forever on the others. But his life was a real prescription for
schizophrenia: when he was home in Centralia, he was afraid to talk about his
friends in Unamendia and Cogaphia. And when he was in these other lands, he
would try discreetly to encourage his friends either to emigrate to Centralia,
or to petition Centralia to annex their lands to its country... this was usually
met with politeness, but never acted upon: "Why should we go to Centralia, and
live there? If they wanted to know us, they'd come here to visit us -- like you
Sometimes his foreign friends would even visit Centralia -- a
land of greater prosperity and more opportunities than their own -- but he could
never prevail upon them to stay for very long. "We don't feel quite at home on
your side of the border," they would tell him. "Now if you would just open all
the borders, and do away with all the immigration laws and tariffs and rulers...
then everybody could come and go as they pleased." But the young man knew such a
change in the government would never occur; Centralia just didn't work that
One day the man (by now not so young) looked long and hard at
himself, at his children, and at his close friends in Centralia... and he
realized... that while trying to be "all things to all people", he wasn't really
a Centralian any more -- he was a man without a country! "Dad," his eldest son
asked him, "are we Centralian or Unamendian or Cogaphian? I can't remember!" And
now he knew that he must do something... to reclaim his birthright. He had to be
a true Centralian, and consider his fellow-countrymen first, and be a part of
the community where he lived. And so he was.
But what about his old friends on the other sides of the
border? He would send messages to them: "I still love you, but I can't sneak
back and forth across the borders to see you, and I can't aid you in sneaking in
and out of my country... But if you will come to Centralia, then I can assure
you that you and your families will be welcome here; my fellow-countrymen will
be happy to have you, but you must swear allegiance to your new land."
Some of his old friends were angry with him, "No, thank you,"
they said. "We'll just stay where we are... and we'll wait until Centralia drops
all its border restrictions... meanwhile we'll just keep slipping back and
forth, when no one is watching, and encouraging others to do the
But the man knew that Centralia would never change its laws
and open all the borders -- because there were some people in Unamendia and
Cogaphia to whom Centralia would never allow open access into their land. So he
told his friends, "If you think like the Centralians, and you want to be one of
them, you will need to openly ask for citizenship, and be prepared to abide by
their laws. There is no other way to receive all the benefits of Centralian
citizenship. Nothing else will ever work; I've seen this from both sides; I've
been there, and I've tried... and I know. It will be very difficult, and in the
end unsatisfying, trying to live in different countries at the same
Now some of his old friends were very angry with him. "You
have abandoned us," they cried. "You don't love us any more, because you won't
come to visit us now."
"But I can't continue to visit like before," he told them.
"Now I must act like a Centralian. But you can move to Centralia any time you
"Never!" they cried. "We were born Unamendians and we will die
the same!" Likewise said some of the Cogaphians.
But others said, "You know, our Centralian friend has a point.
He still loves us, and he wants only what's best for us. Hey, maybe we should
look at this emigration business again!"