Once upon a time, a village was founded on new land. The village grew into towns. The towns grew into cities and, eventually, the peoples of these communities became a nation. Not just any nation, but a nation of free people. This nation was a beacon to other nations of the world and many called it the New World. An apt name because the ideas and spirit of the people of this nation were wholly new. They shaped a world where the individual had more power than the government. In no other nation was the political system set up that way.
Hardships came in went in the new world. Mistakes were made and righted. There were racial inequalities and other intolerances that had to be dealt with. There were wars and failures. There were sickly epidemics and financial calamities. But the nation strived to improve until a man named Dialect arrived. Dialect carried with him a magic can and a broken abacus. He explained that his name had been derived from the Socratic Dialogues written by Plato.
“What is this can?” The political leaders who made up the aptly named ‘do nothing congress,’ asked Dialect.
“It’s not just a can,” Dialect responded. “It’s a magic can. You can place all your woes and worries in this can. You can place all the promises you can’t keep in this can. You can place all your debt, hopes and dreams, and all those decisions that are too hard to make in this can. And best of all, you can kick the can down the road like a child kicks a ball.”
“I disagree,” a distrusting politician shouted from deep in the congressional crowd. “A man cannot become a child again, or he befalls childish ways.” The politician pushed his way through the crowd and asked, “Dialect, what happens to all that we would place into this so called magic can?”
Dialect smiled. “No need to be an alarmist my dear man. Its contents will grow, and grow with what you’ve added to it, nothing more. This can, as I have stated, is magic. The choice to use it is yours and yours alone.”
“I don’t trust this man or his magic can,” the politician warned. “He is as Sophist’s hoped – excellent in oratory argument, but he is as Socrates’ stated, disconnected from truth.” The politician asked Dialect, “And who would open the can?”
“If you choose to use the can,” Dialect answered, “it would be opened only by your bravest children.”
One day the group of political leaders faced a host of economic woes that they had brought on themselves. They had made promises they couldn’t keep in exchange for votes. They had borrowed money until there was none left to borrow. They had printed money until it was worthless. In a last minute meeting to save their hide, they decided to place all their woes and worries in Dialect’s magic can.
“What shall we do with the can?” The distrusting politician, business leaders, and peoples of the nation asked.
“We shall ignore it for now and let our children open it later,” the political leaders answered and they patted themselves on the back for a job well done.
Years and years later, the can swelled with unkept promises and those who had placed their worries and woes into the can were long gone. Throughout the years, new politicians exchanged votes for promises only to place the promises into the can.
The magic can stretched and deformed. The metal casing of the can made grumbling sounds as it disfigured. Each day the horrible sound echoed down the corridors of the congressional building. One day, the can appeared as if it would surely burst and the sitting politicians became afraid.
“The can continues to grow. It may burst at any moment and the explosion will surely destroy us and our great nation. What shall we do with the can?” The political leaders asked Dialect.
“The simple answer, my friends. Let it explode now or you can kick the can down the road.” Dialect answered.
“We should not kick the can,” a new distrusting politician stated. “We should open the can, unravel the woes and behave as moral men. We should behave as leaders. The contents of the can are everything wicked. It’s avarice. It is theft, betrayal, and the vandalism of our values. And to what end? So that we can stay in power? No, we should open this can!”
The selfish political leaders ignored the lone politician and voted to roll the swollen can onto the nation’s main street. They each took turns kicking the magic can toward the horizon on the hill. With each kick the can grew bigger and heavier. All the while the political leaders grew more and more tired. They pushed so hard that their knees were swollen and their backs were crooked.
Soon, the can was so big that people were warned to not stand behind the can for fear it might roll backward. One day, even with everyone joining in, the can could no longer be moved. The can wouldn’t budge no matter how hard they pushed and now the can sat precariously on the top of a hill that overlooked the nation.
“The can won’t budge,” the leaders told Dialect. “And it continues to grow. What should we do?”
Dialect made several calculations using his broken abacus. “The answer,” he said, “you’ll need more cans to hold the magic can in place. But, alas, I have no more magic cans.”
The politicians slept little over the next couple of years over the impending doom for the children. To open the can meant political death. To not open it meant the nation might be destroyed. They decided to do nothing. One day the magic can began to roll backward toward the middle of the nation. As it rolled back, it grew bigger. The magic can had become heavier and it gained speed. The can was enormous and it rolled over anyone one who dared stand in front of it. Everyone knew there was no hope of stopping it.
The businessmen of the nation were the first to be rolled over by the can. The politicians tried to open the can to remove some of the weight, but the can rolled over them too. The can toppled banks. It ran over homes and leveled entire cities. It destroyed anything in its path.
Meanwhile, children of the nation were kept in a national orphanage. The children had never known their parents because their parents worked and worked to pay the toll incurred on them by the can. Soon the can moved at breakneck speed and it headed straight toward the nation’s orphanage. It threatened the very life of the nation’s children.
Mothers were outraged, “Dialect, why have you given us this can? Why have you allowed crooked politicians to fill it with broken promises, and then, kick this can down the road? Can we stop it?”
Dialect shook his head in faux displeasure and did some rough calculations on his broken abacus. “The can has too much mass. It cannot be kicked down the road any longer. It cannot be stopped. You must let the magic can run its course.”
“But it will kill all the children.” The mothers of the nation protested.
“Not all,” Dialect said. “Look, some children are playing kick ball and are not in the path of the can.”
The mothers followed Dialect’s gaze to the nearby field and saw the children playing. Shocked at what they saw, the mothers screamed, “Children stop!”
“Why not let the children play?” Dialect asked.
“Sadly,” the mothers said in unison. “The children have learned from us.”
Dialect could only smile and the remaining politicians finally understood as they noticed it wasn’t a ball the children were kicking and playing with. It was an old coffee can.
Written By: C. B. Carter