Dirty Dishes, an Allegory for Political Change

The table was set, real silver flatware, crystal glasses, fine china cups and porcelain plates, but all were dirty, filthy in fact, crusted with food now rotten and beverages putrid, the wine not even decent vinegar.

“Dear”, the lady of the house said to her children, “perhaps it’s time to use the other set of dishes and flatware, the ones in the dining room china cabinet”.

“But mother” two of the children” dared reply, a boy and girl, the youngest two of the large family and thus still a bit brazen, not yet properly jaded, “those are at least as filthy, why not the ones stored unopened in the attic, they’ve been there forever and ever and are brand new”?

“Oh you foolish children” replied the mother, “those just won’t do. Don’t you know that all the fine dining critics in all the best newspapers and magazine and the most popular cooking shows on cable all agree that only the ones on the table and in the china cabinet are the only ones fit to use? At least for now. This is not the time to change them, perhaps someday but not today, this dinner is too important to experiment with anything new and untried!”

“That’s what you always say Mom” exclaimed the littlest girl, “and the dishes keep getting dirtier and dirtier and no one eats what’s served on them so the filth just keeps accumulating, and we have all those other boxes of unpacked dishes and flatware and glasses and cups and everything, … and I’m really hungry!”

“Now, now dear” soothed the mother as she straightened out her hair and flattened her filthy dress, “maybe next time”.

“That’s what you always say Mom” cried the little boy this time, “and I’m hungry too! And every time we try to eat off of these dishes I get sick and throw up.”

“Regurgitate dear” corrected the mother, “we have to watch how we say things, it’s not polite to use crude language, it only makes matters worse and we have to keep up appearances, appearances are what count after all. Maybe next time”.

The other children, all emaciated, looked on bored. They’d all been through the same pre-adolescent stage but had now grown out of it. Change was frightening and one gets used to things they’d decided. Who even knew if there was anything in those old, old boxes? Better to stay the course as the people on television, on the radio and in the newspapers and magazines made so clear. After all, the two sets the family had alternated seemingly forever had been bought on credit and hadn’t even been paid off yet. And they were certainly the top brands and all the advertisements claimed they were made of the finest materials, all tried and true.

“I wonder if we were that naïve when we were that little” the eldest girl whispered to Mark, the eldest brother, coughing as she did so, all the children had been ill for a long time, seemingly forever, but the family couldn’t figure out why. He just shrugged and responded “they just don’t understand yet. Now is not the time. This time the dinner really is too important to experiment with newfangled things”.

“Now don’t you mess with those old boxes” warned the father! The two younger children seemed exasperated and one never knew what they might do.

“Maybe next time”.

“And remember to brush your teeth!!!!”


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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