I believe that sometimes the most poetic take and an insightful lesson in civics can come from a taxi driver.
Such is what happened to me, recently, when taking a taxi to the Orlando airport, recently.
My taxi driver was a friendly guy who happened to be from Pakistan. He mentioned that I was his first fare of the day, and he’d been waiting a long time (Orlando doesn’t have the demand for taxi rides that a city of its size would suggest).
I asked him if driving a taxi in Orlando wasn’t a pretty volatile and unpredictable source of main income, and he related to me that it was his second job– he had a nine-to-five job during the week that was a more consistent source of income.
“Which is good,” he told me, “since I have four kids that are currently in medical school.”
WOW. A big expense, regardless of the possible financial aid involved.
I asked him how long he’d been in this country– he told me 16 years. He and his wife made a choice to come to America from Pakistan to provide their children the best life possible, and initially had to work insanely hard to be able to stay here, legally.
I asked him how often he’s returned to Pakistan to visit, and he told me he goes every year.
I mentioned that Pakistan and India were two countries on my “gotta visit” list, and that I was afraid it might not be safe to go, right now.
He agreed it wasn’t safe, but qualified wryly: “Not for Americans.”
I mentioned that I felt so badly– and, in part, ashamed of our president — of how war-torn and brutalized that part of the world was…and that I felt “cornered”, now, in respect to what could be done to help things get better.
My driver was thoughtful for a moment, and then said: “Let me tell you about an Indian proverb.”
“There once was a man who came to a river. He saw his friends and loved ones and a better life across the river, so…naturally, he wanted to cross the river.
But the river was wild, looked dangerous, and he didn’t know how deep it was.
Presently, the man saw a blanket floating in front of him in the river. Gingerly testing it, he realized he could ride the blanket across to the other side.
Halfway across the river, the man discovered that the blanket…was in fact…a bear. An angry, viscous, dangerous bear– that would not let him go.
Even though the man ended up near the other shore, the bear held him in his grip.
All of his friends and loved ones who were enjoying a life of freedom motioned to him, saying, ‘What are you waiting for? Come ashore!!’
But the man shook his head, sadly, and replied, ‘I’d love to…but the BLANKET won’t let me GO.”‘
The thing that struck me about this delightful tale was that even after the man discovers he’s made the mistake of confusing a blanket and a way to freedom with a man-eating bear…he’s still in denial, calling it a BLANKET.
That’s the war in Iraq– President Bush’s bear.
We know it’s a bear…the world knows it’s a bear…but, regrettably, those in leadership (most notably, President Bush) continue to insist on calling it a blanket.
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