Can we point and laugh now?
In the famous fable, “The Emperor’’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson, everyone from the highest official to the lowliest peasant pretends not to see the truth — that the emperor is naked. When a child points and shouts, “But he hasn’t got anything on!” The adults are slow to catch on, but soon everyone is pointing and laughing and saying “It’s true! He hasn’t got anything on!”.
The emperor, however, thought, “This procession has got to go on.” And he “walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.”
The emperor was a vain idiot, but the villains of the story are the swindlers who pretended to make him the fine clothes, and the sycophants who praised him and carried his non-existent train.
Donald Trump is a vain idiot. But the real villains are the American people. All of us, led by the millions of his voters, the US Congress, and every media outlet that publishes his word salad pronouncements without an asterisk and a footnote saying “The President’s statements are the product of a disordered mind and should not in the least be taken seriously.”
And this ‘procession’ need not go on.
We have almost three years of examples of his mental nudity to go on, but in just the past few days:
And now he is “hereby” ordering private companies around like Caligula demanding his horse be inducted into the Senate.
On yeah, and by the way, FedEx, Amazon, UPS, USPS, Toys R Us, Dollar Tree and TJ Maxx, I hereby deputize you as agents of the DEA and order you to round up Fentanyl, or Fanta, or Fantastic Four comics, or something. Hear me and obey!
So where is our child? The one who will shout “But he’s not thinking anything!”
Where is the voice that will ignite within all the people the moral courage to say “Yeah, you’re right! He’s an id with a skin. An escaped asylum patient with the nuclear codes. An adrenal gland with a Twitter account. There is nothing approaching thought going on between those orange ears, behind those lights-on-but-nobody-home-eyeballs. He should not have power over a handful of Lego figurines, let alone a country of 300 million souls!”?
It won’t be me, or the platoons of political satirists, or the brigades of stand-up comics, or the armies of stern-faced pundits, or the holed-up militias of mouth-foaming YouTube screamers, or the squads of carefully-footnoted-and-directly-sourced academicians, I can assure you.
In the Anderson story, it’s often said the child represents clear-eyed innocence. But there’s more. All the adults pretend to see the clothes because they all believe the swindlers’ story — that to not see the clothes is to reveal one’s stupidity or unfitness for their place in society. The people watching the emperor’s procession stand to lose a great deal if they admit they see a naked man. Their jobs and livelihoods, their social standing, their reputations. Their self-image, their ego, their brittle sense of self.
The child has none of this to lose.
Who among us will point and laugh, and shout for all to hear, that the emperor is naked? Who is the one we will listen to, the one who will bring us to our senses, who will rouse our dignity? Who will reach and speak to what is good and right within us, make us realize that to applaud the naked man and pretend he is bedecked in the finest of garments is more dangerous and deadly than to admit we don’t see the clothes that are not there?
The procession will only end when we all point and laugh.