The Parable of the Cousin

A person in a city had great-great-great-grandparents who owned a beautiful house in what was then a nice neighborhood. But, one day, there was great violence and tumult and they had to leave with nothing but the clothes on their backs and some keepsakes.

They wandered through the country and settled in a big city. They were literate and able, and found work. They were able to have a large family, who all moved to different places, worked, and had their own families. Everyone in that family, all the descendants of the great-great-great-grandparents, talked about that wonderful old house. Nobody went to visit, because travel was hard and expensive, but they told stories about it, generation after generation.

A while ago, travel became easier and the family started to visit that old neighborhood. It had changed, was run down and dangerous, but the house was still there. Now all the family could talk about was moving there. Many of them loved the idea but had roots in their new home towns and did not want to move. But eventually a cousin decided to explore the possibilities of moving there. They inquired around the town, and found the current owner. They big old house had been divided up into apartments, and had quite a few tenants, mostly quite poor.

The cousin offered the owner of the big old house a nice price, and the owner decided to sell and take their profits. Many of the tenants were vexed by this, and the neighbors were not happy either. They didn’t like the idea of these “outsiders” moving into their neighborhood, where they had lived for two or even three generations. The cousin explained about the great-great-great-grandparents, how they had been driven out against their will, how they always wanted to come back but travel was too difficult, how travel was now easier, and, finally, how they bought the house fair and square from the owner. The deed was legal and approved by the state and the city and everything.

The neighbors were still not happy. They thought it was an evil plot by the cousin’s family and the state and the city. And as soon as the cousin moved in, they attacked the house. The tenants were stuck in the middle. Some fled in fear of violence, some fled believing that soon the cousins would be killed and they could return to the way things used to be, and, sadly, the cousins forced some out. But many stayed and hid until things calmed down.

Eventually, the cousin, who had defended the house very resolutely, won out, and the neighbors, beaten and embarrassed, went home. But they kept attacking, sometimes by their teenagers throwing rocks, but later, when that didn’t work, sending children with bombs and stories about how they would go to Heaven if they blew themselves up.

The family who did not live there but remained in their home cities were proud of their cousin who had bought the house, and horrified at the constant attacks. The cousins asked for money on a regular basis, and because the cousins were the ones, it seemed, who were keeping the family’s legacy alive, the family sent money. They visited and they said many prayers for the cousin and their family.

But the cousins’ hearts were hardened by the constant attacks and they started to change. The rest of the family were horrified to learn that their cousin had joined the KKK. This was very different from the rest of the family, who were sophisticated urbanites and believed in equal rights and equality under the law. More and more, the cousin and their family were different from their family. Of course, the cousins said, the family could not understand what they were going through, or had an idealized romantic vision of the cousins’ neighbors, or were just soft from an easy life.

When the cousins asked for money again, some of the family said they understood what they were going through was terrible, but they were in the KKK for gods’ sake, and they felt they could not support them. I mean, yes, they were family, but they weren’t the only community the family members were part of; they had friends, colleagues, and affiliations apart from family. Among many of those were people who were very much against the KKK.

So there were conflicts within the family, those who said the cousins had to be supported no matter what because it was their house originally and if they were not supported they would be massacred. And there were others who said, true, it was their house originally, but nobody had to live there, and the family were not safer there than anywhere else, especially because of those violent neighbors who seemed to have nothing else to do all day. The neighbors could have just got jobs and got on with their lives, but attacking the cousins was now like a religious goal; they felt the neighborhood was theirs and they could not rest until it all belonged to them. And arguing with religion is a chump’s game.

So the family was divided and we don’t know what will happen.