How the people of the city of Gum embraced their differences and became whole again

Okot Nyormoi

Gum was a small city state ruled by a wise and kindly king. The people loved their king. The king whose powers were immense did not abuse his authority. It was a delicate balance. For years the people lived in peace and harmony. No one could tell how long this could last.

Being the wise man that he was the king was among the first to notice the change. A malaise had crept over the land. It was tearing away at the fabrics of the ancient land. A people that once were whole were not whole again.

Being a benign and kindly man the king wished to get to the root of the matter and uproot it if he could. He had the idea to invite to the palace the good folks of the city to come and talk things over. One by one they came to the palace. He feasted them and burrowed into the malaise that afflicted the land.

The first to visit was an elderly fellow who worked at the city council. In the royal presence the old man lost his cool and acted nervous. But the king put him at ease. In the end they drank and ate and talked like buddies. The king had the gift of making people feel at ease.

“My good man, I may be king but I see that today you are not the man you were yesterday. It pains me; it was never like this with you. Tell me, what bugs you?”

The man was taken aback. He had never talked to a king before. He knew there was a problem but what was he to say to the king. After a pause, he told the king that of late he had grown weary of people who grind their teeth. They bother him. Would the king do something?

My dear man, said the king, I understand how that can be a problem. What do you want us to do?

Why! Get rid of such people, the man told the king.

Oh that is a simple matter, do not worry. Go now to the corner store, get yourself a few pliers. When the time comes I will give orders and we will remove from their mouths the teeth of all who grind their teeth. But do not act now. And remember to keep our plan secrete. Otherwise I shall banish you from the land. The man agreed and left.

Next there came a woman who hated with a passion people who snored at night. She was not alone. My dear, said the king to the woman, what a simple problem you have! Easy, go get yourself a curving knife. And be ready to curve off the noses of all offenders. But do not act now, wait for my orders. And remember to keep this secrete. Otherwise I shall banish you from the land.

There walked in a little boy who had problems with his parents and grownups in the neighborhood. My parents are terrible people, the boy said; they shout all the time. Sir please, can you get rid of them and for that matter all adults including teachers.

The little boy was followed by a young mother who wanted to be rid of infants who were forever farting, shitting and urinating, including her own baby son. The bastard! She called him. The woman wanted the king to declare the city an infant free zone. The king was amazed but he kept his own counsel.

To the boy and to the mother, to each separately, the king said. Oh what a simple problem you bring to me. Young man, go and prepare for yourself banners prohibiting all adults on pain of death to continue to live anymore in this kingdom. But keep the plan to yourself. Wait till the day of action.

To the handsome woman the king said more or less the same thing. Go and prepare banners declaring illegal the presence of infants in the kingdom. Keep the plan a secret till the day of action.

For days and weeks the king consulted and talked with his people, one on one. A picture emerged. There was in the kingdom, someone who hated someone. Someone did not like something about someone else. Their physical attributes, their religion, and their sexual preferences, their professions: the list was endless.

When the king had heard it all, and the time came, he summoned all to appear at the royal place with their secret tools and secret weapons. And when all were assembled with their banners and their weapons the king gave orders. To the good folks who had confided in him the order came as a great shock. Openly and publicly confronted each person saw how foolish they had been. All were embarrassed and dropped their evil intent against their neighbors.

From that day on the people of Gum realized what a world of differences and varieties they inhabited. Where in the world were you going to find someone exactly the same as you? The good folks of Gum accepted that henceforth, they will embrace and celebrate their differences. And so they did. And the peace and the harmony the kingdom once knew returned.