Two Countries

There once were two countries, A and B, and two kinds of people, purple people and green people. Each country had both purple people and green people.

In country A, the purple people were in charge. A small group of purple people were the gatekeepers of all things, the decision makers, the managers of life.

In country B, the green people were in charge. A small group of green people were the gatekeepers of all things, the decision makers, the managers of life.

The two countries shared a large border and a free one. By ancient treaty, no visas were required and no checkpoints marred the landscape. But almost nobody ever crossed the border. A nearly insurmountable range of peaks obstructed much of the length, and strong rapids made the remainder treacherous.

Though fundamentally different in nature and culture, the majority of the purple and green people did not mind one another. Many even cherished the differences, and friendly relations were by far the norm in both countries.

The two governments were exceptions.

The purple leaders of country A portrayed green people as primitive, dangerous, and unable to restrain their impulses, creatures to be feared and controlled. The green people sought to dominate and oppress them, they warned. Only through constant vigilance and zeal could such a dire threat be averted. Whether they believed these words or simply found them politically expedient is unclear.

The green leaders of country B portrayed purple people as arrogant, irrational, and immoral, individuals of loose character and dishonest nature. Such people sought to lead good folk astray and never should be allowed influence, never should be listened to, they warned. Only through constant vigilance and zeal could such a dire threat be averted. Whether they believed these words or simply found them politically expedient is unclear.

Most green and purple people in both countries meant well, or at least did not intend ill. But a few did as a few will do, and this was exacerbated by the rhetoric of each government.

Every time a purple person in country B was attacked, the leaders of country A pointed and exclaimed “See, we are right. We must protect purple people from the inexcusable barbarity of the green people.” But they held no power in country B and compensated with an excess of zeal in their own country. Small crimes were made big, a growing range of behavior was criminalized, penalties grew, initiatives to advance purple people in the face of obvious oppression were advanced, and the public was freshly informed of the omnipresent danger posed by green people.

Every time a green person in country B was persecuted, the leaders of country B pointed and exclaimed “See, we are right. We must protect green people from the hysterical lunacy of the purple people.” But they held no power in country A and compensated with an excess of zeal in their own country. Small crimes were made big, a growing range of behavior was criminalized, penalties grew, initiatives to suppress the influence of purple people in the face of their obvious irresponsibility were advanced, and the public was freshly informed of the omnipresent evil posed by purple people.

The green people in country A cringed whenever something happened in country B. The inevitable furor surely would land on their heads. An inquisition would follow, jobs would be lost, lives would be ruined, and the slightest misstep would destroy them.

The purple people in country B cringed whenever something happened in country A. The inevitable furor surely would land on their heads. Vilification would follow, new restrictions would be imposed, rights would be lost, lives would be ruined, and the hope of improvement would grow ever more distant.

The majority of purple people in country A were not particularly swayed by their government’s propaganda, but they did not repudiate it. Most did not understand the plight of their green fellow citizens. They dismissed green complaints as hyperbolic, arguing that their government meant well and any real impact on green people was minimal. Those who believed the truth dared not speak up, and the purple leaders grew ever more powerful. Soon the green people sat hands in laps, eyes down, afraid that the slightest gesture or word could be seen as a threat by those purples who made a business of seeing threats everywhere. A few green sycophants found some small degree of success, but even they were not safe.

The majority of green people in country B were not particularly swayed by their government’s propaganda, but they did not repudiate it. Most did not understand the plight of their purple fellow citizens. They dismissed purple complaints as hysterical, arguing that their government meant well and any real impact on purple people was minimal. Those who believed the truth dared not speak up, and the green leaders grew ever more powerful. Soon the purple people sat hands in laps, eyes down, afraid that the slightest gesture or word could be seen as a sin by those greens who made a business of seeing sins everywhere. A few purple collaborators found some small degree of success, but even they were not safe.

Through the vagaries of geopolitics, some families happened to span both countries. On the rare occasions when they spoke, neither side believed the other.

The purple people in country A did not believe the tales told by their relatives in country B. These were exaggerations spread by politicians, they declared. After all, they experienced no such thing. If anything, their lives were easier than before. A few, seeing the oppression of green people in their own country (but unwilling to speak up about it) even rebuked their relatives. If anything, green people were the oppressed not the oppressors. It was one thing not to help them, but quite another to blame them.

The green people in country B did not believe the tales told by their relatives in country A. These were exaggerations spread by politicians, they declared. After all, they experienced no such thing. If anything, their lives were easier than before. A few, seeing the oppression of purple people in their own country (but unwilling to speak up about it) even rebuked their relatives. If anything, purple people were the oppressed not the oppressors. It was one thing not to help them, but quite another to blame them.

In this way, country A raced toward a dystopia for its green citizens and country B raced toward a dystopia for its purple citizens, yet nobody else recognized this.

Each government was the other’s best friend, and both were the people’s worst enemy.

This is how half the population did not realize the sky was falling, while the other half saw it happening with their own eyes.

But I apologize. I misspoke. The border has no mountains or rapids. It is not physical or legal, but one of social milieu, profession, and education. Yet it is no less real for this lack of topography. Despite the apparent freedom to do so, most people lack the wherewithal to cross the border.

The two countries are our country, today.

This is where we are, this is where we are going, and this is why you will not be believed if you say so.

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