While reading this excellent diary about how the Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Brook, pushed back at the whiny group gathered on Meet the Press, I remembered a story that I, and certainly many of us, read in our childhood.
It’s called The Little Red Hen and it’s about a hen who finds some seeds, plants them, grows them into bread and bakes them into loaves. Every time she asks for help she’s refused by the other animals in the barn. Here’s a passage
“Then I’ll do it myself,” said the Little Red Hen. And so she did. She knew that seeds need water to grow tall and strong. “Who will help me water these seeds?” asked the Little Red Hen.
“Not I!” said the lamb.
“Not I!” said the cat.
“Not I!” said the pig.
The little red hen continues through the tasks of growing the grain and turning it into bread – which she then refuses to share.
The conversation on last Sunday’s Meet the Press reminded me of this little book, because it seemed to me that there was an incredible chorus of mockery and unhelpfulness in the persons of David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd (I’ll leave it to others to match these people with the animals).
But that’s not all there is to this story. Please follow through the orange clouds.
Little Red Hen was (in)famously exploited by Ronald Reagan. From Wikipedia:
Revisions of the story include a current political version, based on a Ronald Reagan monologue from 1976. The farmer claims that the hen is being unfair if she does not share her bread with the other animals, and forces her to share her bread with those who would not work for it. This in turn removes the hen's incentive to work resulting in poverty for the entire barnyard. It was also used as an analogy to defend President George W. Bush's decision to bar companies from countries opposed to the Iraq War from bidding on contracts for reconstruction work.But who these days is trying to work? The Republican Congress is famous for not trying to do much of anything but increase their vacation time, repeal Obamacare, and shut down the government.
I think it’s time to take back our stories and our words and our phrases. With them we can take back our country.
Over and over we see the right trying to claim stories. Remember Ted Cruz’s infamous folly-buster and how during that time he read the classic Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham? Not only was Theodore Geisel (the real name of Dr. Seuss) a progressive liberal, Green Eggs and Ham is a great allegory for exactly what many Americans need to do – stop turning up their noses at the Affordable Care Act and to see if they like it. Many, many will, once they do.
The ridiculousness of Cruz pretending to have a connection to Green Eggs and Ham was noticed quickly.
Not so the teachings of Jesus. For decades, now, the liberal, yes, progressive and egalitarian teachings of Jesus – think of the tale of the Good Samaritan, a story against racism, and his refusal to stone the woman taken in adultery, an instance of standing up for women and their sexuality – have been subverted. There’s no need to repeat what has been preached all too often, but we know that there has been a stream of invective promoting greed and intolerance. Pope Francis has come out swinging on the other side; I’m curious to see how
I am tired of the words liberal and even socialist being said with a sneer. I’m even tired of hating the word conservative, which has also been perverted from a reasonable, let’s-invest-in-the-future approach to this radical version today.
From Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'Let’s get back to mastering the story. We need to repeat our version. We need to say it again. Yes, and again. Object. Make compelling arguments. These things can make a difference.
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'
And for those who want to read a version of the Little Red Hen already taken back with an ending in which the lamb, the cat and the pig learned their lesson and help with the second crop, just click away.
What stories and phrases and words do you want back?
Tired of politics? Need to escape? Try one of my Greek-mythology based novels, either the story of Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus or a trilogy about Niobe, or one of the first examples of civil disobedience, Antigone and Creon. Or, if you like mysteries and/or Jane Austen, treat yourself to The Highbury Murders: A Mystery Set in the Village of Jane Austen’s Emma very positively reviewed at the Daily Kos Monday Murder Mystery blog.