A Fable for the Age of Trump

-By James F. Trumm and Allison M. Dickson

Once upon a time, there was a big white and blue plane. Back then, everybody who flew on the plane was united. Though the passengers came from many different parts of the world, they were all going to the same place together. Sometimes the flights were bumpy, sometimes they were crowded, but thanks to the steady hands and good sense of the men who piloted the plane, everyone got to where they were going.

One day, the people who owned the plane chose a new pilot, an old man with yellow hair and tiny hands. This pilot was not like the other ones. He believed that some people didn’t belong on the plane. He thought that his friends were more important than the other passengers. This didn’t bother a lot of the people who owned the plane because they thought they were important too. They thought the plane should fly in a different direction, and that the best thing about the plane was not that it flew passengers to their destinations together, but that it made lots and lots of money for the people who owned it. They liked the new pilot, who told them that if they hired him, they’d make even more money—even if a lot of people got left at the airport.

The new pilot was not a nice man. He lied. He cheated. He even told some of the people who liked him to beat up folks who didn’t think he should be the pilot. No pilot had ever behaved like that before, but still, a lot of people admired him. They thought that he was exactly what a pilot should be: a man who gave orders and expected them to be followed without question. A lot of other people didn’t like the new pilot, but they were afraid to criticize him. Some of them worried that if they said bad things about the new pilot, he might throw them off the plane.

One day, when the big plane was about to take off, the pilot decided that he wanted to take some of his important friends along for the ride. But the plane was already full. And so the new pilot began ordering people to get off the plane to make room for his friends. This made a lot of the passengers unhappy. Two of them reluctantly followed the pilot’s orders.

But another man who was ordered off the plane refused. He was a doctor. He said, “My patients are more important than your need to make a little more money today. They are more important than your friends.” And a lot of people on the plane thought that he was right about that, though no one had the courage to speak up.

The doctor’s refusal to get off the plane made the pilot furious. But still, the doctor wouldn’t leave. The pilot, in a rage, ordered a policeman (who was called The Ice Man because of his cold, cold heart) to force the doctor off the plane. The Ice Man told the doctor he had to get off the plane now. Then grabbed the doctor and dragged him, screaming, off the plane.

The doctor was hurt, and the other passengers were stunned. Shocked. But no one spoke up. No one said, “We are all united passengers, going to the same destination. Who are you to tell this doctor he isn’t important anymore?” Instead, some of them took out their magic phones and made movies of the doctor being dragged out. Later, some of those people went on TV and talked about how very upset they were, even though they never did anything to stop the Ice Man. By that time, they had gotten so used to the new pilot’s bad behavior that they just shrugged.

The big plane continued to fly that day. And in days that followed. But it wasn’t like it used to be. Now many of the passengers acted as mean as the pilot. As long as they weren’t being dragged off the plane, they figured, it was none of their business. And the doctor looked a little different than they did. And they thought that people who refused to get off the plane were probably just troublemakers.

The big plane wasn’t united anymore.

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