Way back in 1961, Theodore and Audrey Geisel (Dr. and Mrs. Seuss) penned a tale of two Zax--one going North and one going South--who met upon the prairie of Prax.
It would be a good bet, I think, to assume most anyone over 50 remembers the story well, and perhaps a fair bet to assume that many of the Millennials and Gen-Xers know the gist of the account of two prideful characters who refuse haughtily to give way, by even a foot, to the East or West.
"The Zax" was written at a time when the world itself was divided in two: the Red Zax and the Red, White, and Blue Zax--East and West, Soviet and not-Soviet, one side of the Wall and the other side of the Wall. Their combined philosophical, political, and military stalemate prevented either side from seeing the value of any off-center movement. Both sides promised their Zax populations that any weakness would lead to annihilation. How unthinkable (how MAD) to give any advantage!
In October of 1962, upon the ocean prairie of the Atlantic, the Red Zax blinked, and moved aside, but there was no grace in its action; it was a sneering, "I'll be back, just-you-wait" fourth-grader's reaction to having been outmaneuvered by the opposing Zax. Fifty-three years later, both Zax are back at it...on the prairies of the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Another confrontation in the '50s and '60s pitted Black Zax against White Zax in classrooms, lunch counters, public transportation, and public bathrooms (to mention only a few). This was a brutal battle of wills, with one side refusing to move forward, and one side refusing to move back. The side refusing to move back held the moral high-ground; the side refusing to move forward held the fetid low-ground of contempt and prejudice.
Fortunately, there were some forward-looking White Zax who stood firm with the Black Zax, and together they fashioned a legislative and judicial workaround to confound the recalcitrant and bitter backward-favoring White Zax. But those backward Zax let everyone know that "they'd be back, just you wait." And so they are, with First Amendment relic flags and Bibles in their hands, and Second Amendment-manufactured guns on their hips.
So it is through this lens of Seussian history that we must examine the Zax confrontation that is making a mess of everything on the electoral stage and on Capitol Hill. Ass-faced Zax and Trunk-faced Zax, nose-to-nose over whether to move forward or backward, left or right. The braying and trumpeting is deafening. Even within their own species they cannot find room enough to let one or the other lead or compromise.Just look at the Sunday Washington Post's headline: "At a crossroads, GOP poised for transformation." It does not take a Dr. Seuss to predict the outcome. In fact, even a child can see where this is bound to go, based on the curriculum of Teaching Children to Learn, in a Zax-specific philosophy lesson written by Sarah A. Keating. Keating concludes her lesson by saying,
The Zax asks us to confront the concepts of pride and compromise. We must determine whether pride is a positive or negative quality to have and whether the Zax should have comprised in order for progress to be made at the risk of sacrificing their autonomy.
To the Ass-faced Zax and the Trunk-faced Zax, by their way of thinking, puffed-up autonomy trumps risking compromise: Ass to Trunk, Zax to Zax, the world (or, at least the Federal government) should stand still until one or the other prevails. I wonder if the late Yogi Berra might have said, "When you reach a crossroads, take it."
Will nothing happen because we are waiting for the Zax to move?
I prefer Dr. Seuss's conclusion:
Of course the world didn't stand still. The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax
And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks.
In a bit over a year, on election day, we will have the opportunity to build a highway of consensus over those stubborn Zax, and drive far beyond the Beltway of Prax. Just watch out for the Sneetches on your way.