Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Vespucci, the people rose as one to defeat their king. King Erba had been an unpopular and ineffective King. Like most Kings, he had ascended to the throne by riding the robes of his father. But the people found that genetics do not bestow wisdom.
After several unfortunate wars with neighboring kingdoms, destructive mismanagement of the treasury, and years of embarrassing behavior, King Erba was finally toppled from power. He returned to his villa in southern Vespucci to live in quiet (though opulent) retirement. The people thanked heaven that the King was gone and that he had not succeeded in destroying the kingdom. Fortunately for Vespucci the powers of the king, while great, were not without bounds.
But the throne was now empty.
After a year of struggles, in which many men and women sought to become the new king, the people rose and proclaimed Giacomo Benedetto king of all Vespucci. Benedetto was as unlike Erba as can be imagined. Sun-kissed and handsome, wise and benevolent, a great orator and a leader of men. Under his benevolent rule the wounds suffered under King Erba might be healed. But so great were these wounds that Benedetto himself despaired that he would ever be able to repair things.
The people decided that Benedetto could be trusted with wider powers. The crisis justified the change. Benedetto was given total control over the treasury, over the lives of all citizens. He was given control over their futures, over their children's care. Benedetto the benevolent could be trusted with all details of life -- from the diameter of a wagon wheel to the amount of salt in a stew -- power to command legions of knights, catapults, battering rams, hot oil and sharp steel. Power to override any objections, power to overturn the law, power over breath, heartbeat, sinew and thought.
And Vespucci prospered. Wise Benedetto fixed everything. A generation lived in peace and harmony. A statue was erected in his honor in the center of the capital -- it stood as a shining beacon -- a heroic golden hero dazzling in the sun.
Then Benedetto grew old, and went home.
And the throne was empty.
After a struggle, the young son of King Erba gained power. A resentful and angry young man, he had worked for years to avenge the overthrow of his father. He hated the people of Vespucci with all his heart, but hid his motives behind a fixed smile and an easy charm. He took the throne and all the powers which had been granted it. He took control over every facet of life, over every breath and over every mind.
And Vespucci was destroyed, for who could withstand the unchecked might of the king?
Years later, an old man walked through the crumbled remains of what had been the capital. He brushed past ragged beggars, the sick, the wounded, the ignorant and maimed populace. He walked to the statue of Benedetto that still remained on its pedestal in the central square. Moss grew on it now, and the gilt had peeled away.
"Power does not accumulate to the King," the old man thought, "it accumulates to the throne -- and when the King leaves, the throne is empty..."
And the old man hung his head in shame.
-by Richard Gleaves, copyright 2009