A man living in a third-world country got the opportunity to move to America. Before becoming a citizen, he had certain stipulations. Upon arrival, he talked to the mayor of the town he wished to live in. “I don’t mind enjoying the freedom and opportunity America has to offer. Just don’t push your religious ideas on me.”
The mayor assured him. “America is a melting pot of ideas and religions. You will have opportunities to learn of different ideas, but we will not push anything on you.”
One week later, the foreigner stormed into the mayor’s office. “When will your town stop pushing your religious symbols on me?” The mayor sat down and tried to understand what the foreigner meant by this; however, things got lost in translation. Feeling ignored and patronized, the foreigner stormed out, promising to write the president a letter.
A week later, the president opened the letter from the foreigner. The spelling and grammar had been done by a secretary for the president to clearly understand.
Dear Mr. President,
I appreciate the welcoming arms and great opportunities your country has to offer. Unfortunately, I must complain about a certain town. This town has erected a large wooden cross, a symbol of religious belief. I thought I could avoid this symbol to embrace my own beliefs. Instead, I found another wooden cross in front of a library, another at the theatre, and more crosses at every turn. When speaking to the mayor, he said this cross was a symbol of great power. Horrified, I demanded these intolerant symbols be taken down, or replaced with a universal symbol. The mayor told me it would be dangerous and costly to take the symbols down. That it would leave many in the dark.
How, Mr. President, could you allow such an atrocity? I will consider leaving this country if something is not done immediately!
The president did not hesitate to call the mayor. Without letting the mayor speak, the president strictly ordered the mayor to cut down the offensive wooden crosses immediately. One month later, the president got another letter, this time from the Mayor.
Dear Mr. President,
I respect the fact that you are the head of this country. We have followed your orders completely. I hope you will at least send emergency aid. Since we have cut down every last telephone pole in our town, every last citizen is without power. Businesses suffer, traffic has halted, food is scarce, and people are literally in the dark.
Immediately the president flew in to the town to see the wreckage himself. The mayor met him at the airport. The president froze. “Isn’t that a telephone pole in the distance?”
The mayor grinned. “I did think about carrying out your orders, Mister President. But then, I thought about the one pole that carried electricity to the fire house where we keep the voting machine. I thought you might want that one standing.”
The president seemed more relieved, but still ghostly pale.
“Oh, and we thought about last year, when you came and visited the plant to offer more jobs. We thought you might like that to be running as well. Honestly, we wondered if every potential voter in this town would think better of a president that offered electricity. I lied when I said we took down every last telephone pole. We did not take down any. I hope you don’t mind my foresight in this matter.”
“Mister Mayor, of course I would never hurt anyone in this great country. You must know that I feared a great offense of another kind, imposing its values on innocent bystanders. But, this foreigner, how is he taking this?”
“After the whole town pitched in to get him a refrigerator, television, and juicer, we haven’t seen or heard of him. I guess you could say he’s seen the light.”
The news cameras had gathered by this time, aiming their sights on the president. He tried in vain to form a diplomatic response. Involuntarily he choked up the word “Thanks.”
“Oh, don’t thank me. It looks like you’ve been saved by a large wooden cross, one that carries more power than your or I.”