Tue 7 Aug 2007
Let’s say there’s a small town somewhere in the Midwest, with a parade of homemade floats and the reigning princess of the region, the lovely and kind Miss Okra. All the townspeople line up along the route to see her pass by on her okra throne, fashioned in just seven hours by her three brothers, who used a nail gun, a chicken wire and plywood frame, and seventeen hundred and nine fresh okras.
Miss Okra loves to throw out candy to the crowd as she passes by. She has buckets and buckets of it at her feet, more than enough for everyone, and she waves with one hand and tosses with the other. People love to catch the candy, though some get more than others, based on where they are sitting or how good their hand-eye coordination is or how large a person is in front of them or if they happen to be sitting in a pause between throws. I myself catch a milky way dark, my favorite kind, and I feel a rush of excitement and gratitude. I doubt that Miss Okra picked out that flavor just for me and aimed it directly my way, but that doesn’t diminish my pleasure one bit.
Some of the people by the road have ten pieces, and others have none. Though some of us are disappointed, none of us feels that Miss Okra, in her lovely green dress and ceramic okra-shaped earrings, was unfair. She was giving steadily all down the block. It is up to us to share our own bounty with the little ones and to use our authority to influence those who have, by luck, ability, wiles, passion, or force, acquired more than they need and are reluctant to share it.
It’s a different story when Miss Okra descends from her now slightly squished and oozy chair to personally choose candy for each member of the crowd. For some people she grinds the candy under her heel first; others she refuses altogether, and even takes their water bottles away. Still others find their open palms heaped with candies as she dumps scoop after scoop into them. What kind of an Okra princess is this? She is passing out just as much candy as before, and the distribution is about the same, but now the ordinary townspeople who had thought of her as kind find they don’t much like her, nor her fancy earrings, nor her way of doing things. People down the route who catch wind of what is happening get up and leave, candy or no candy; they want no part in it.
Miss Okra’s handlers leap out of the backs of police cars and surround her. The handlers are dressed as giant okras. They publicly apologize for having engineered this stunt. Miss Okra climbs back up on the float and beams at the crowd, foil candy wrappers glistening in her gloved hand. The ordinary townspeople do the wave.