In 1905, G.K. Chesterton wrote, in Heretics,

People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are. Life may sometimes legitimately appear as a book of science. Life may sometimes appear, and with a much greater legitimacy, as a book of metaphysics. But life is always a novel.

As I look around at the ridiculous events surrounding us with the HHS mandate, I want to scream.

I can sign a petition and promote common sense–and so can you!

Other people, though, do better. Karina Fabian shared this brilliant parable-like story with me, and when I read it, I nodded. And when she offered to let me share it here, I couldn’t refuse.

Life is always a novel, indeed.

Government Pork, by Karina Fabian

Once there was a wonderful town full of people who loved to eat, and many wonderful and varied restaurants that served excellent food:  Italian and French, Japanese and Mongolian, Middle Eastern and even a kosher delicatessen.  Not everyone liked every restaurant, of course, and some people even thought particular restaurants were odd, but they appreciated the variety available to all.

There were also a lot of pig farmers in the area, and people enjoyed the fresh pork.  One year, they had a mayor who loved fresh pork.  He thought it was the right of everyone in the town to have pork at any meal they wanted.  “Why,” he’d say,” if there was only one meal I could give my kids, it’d be pork chops!”  Of course, lots of the people loved pork as well, and they applauded his enthusiasm.

One day he sat in his office, thinking about how much he and others liked pork, and he decided that every restaurant should serve pork, at every meal.  Oh, maybe not every individual would want to eat pork, but they deserved the right to have it on their plate so they could choose!  And so, he set out a decree that all restaurants would serve some form of pork in every meal.

Well, the delicatessen and the Middle Eastern restaurant were upset by this.  They couldn’t serve pork—it was against their religions.  So they went to the Mayor and asked to be excused from this rule. “After all,” they said, “people know we never serve pork.”

“But you should.  People have the right to pork.  Some of your customers eat pork.  Even some of your employees enjoy a good ham!”

“And if they wish to, they may–but not in our restaurants,” the owners said.  “It’s against the kind of restaurants we are to serve pork.  And we have customers who do not want pork, who would be offended and do not want to pay for pork.”

“Well, I’m offended that you won’t serve it—and I’m sure other pork lovers agree that your attitude is most disagreeable.”

“Our customers and our employees know where we stand, and they continue to frequent our restaurants and work for us.  We serve them well, but we do not serve them pork.  We have the right to our own menus.   We should not be forced.”

But the mayor stood firm.  “No,” he said.  “Everyone has the right to have pork, and it’s my duty to make sure it’s always available, whether you agree or not.  It’s healthier than beef anyway.  If you don’t like it, you can pay a fine and stop serving food—or you can close down.”

The restaurant managers refused to change their menus.  Many people stood by them—because they, too, would not eat pork and didn’t want to pay for it; or because they agreed that restaurants should choose their own menus; or because they didn’t like the mayor telling people how to run their own businesses.  The movie theaters stood by him, because they were afraid if the Mayor could change menus, he might also start dictating what shows would be played.

The pork lovers, however, were incensed.  How dare the restaurants not give them pork if they wanted it?

“I can’t eat beef; what should I do then?” one demanded.  “Do you just want to send me away to starve?”

“We have other dishes,” they said.  “Our menu and service would be no different than before.  We can feed you many things; just not pork.”

Nonetheless, the press, too, said that the two restaurants would rather let people starve rather than eat pork.

Despite the outcry of the pork lovers, more and more people said, “Let them choose their own menu!”

One day, the Mayor called the restaurant owners into his office.  He had a compromise, he said.

“I won’t make you buy pork.  You don’t have to prepare it, or touch it.  Instead, all restaurant suppliers will have to supply pork to every restaurant, free of charge, and for those that don’t want to serve the pork, suppliers will cook it and put it on every plate themselves.”

“But there would still be pork in our restaurant!” the owners cried.  “Besides, they will increase the price of meat to cover their new expenses.”

“Oh, they wouldn’t do that.  I’d tell them not to.  Besides, the point is you wouldn’t be actually serving pork.  See how well that works?  Everyone gets pork and you can say you never provided it.  And if your patrons don’t want to eat it, they don’t have to; it’s enough that it’s there for them.”

So, problem solved?

A note from Karina: The HHS compromise is no compromise—it’s an escalation, making it impossible not only for the Catholic Church to live according to its beliefs, but any small business that may also believe as the Church does.  I wrote this parable to try to put the debate out of the “contraception/women’s health” light and show the other issues at stake.  Feel free to copy this story and use it on your own blogs.  If you do, please include this link to sign a petition to stop the HHS mandate (or if you know of another petition, include it)