We all know the children’s parable of the “Emperor Who Had No Clothes,” don’t we? The tale of the self-important ruler so vain that when his vapid, sycophantic court suggested he order up the most luxurious, expensive robe ever designed, made of the sheerest, most diaphanous fabric ever known, almost invisible but to the more educated, cultivated eyes. The emperor happily agreed.
Actually, there was no such fabric. But the designers counted on his incredible vanity, and when they went through the motions of trying this unprecedented “garment” on the naked emperor and raving about how handsome he looked in it, he exultantly proclaimed he’d parade through his kingdom, proudly showing off his new sartorial splendor.
And as he was transported through thousands of his subjects in his royal chariot, standing and preening to their cheers of delight, all of them embarrassed to admit that they couldn’t even see the “robe” because of their own cultural inadequacy, he stopped momentarily as a large crowd had to be moved aside. And at that moment, a little boy, who hadn’t been instructed to keep his mouth shut, shouted in innocent wonder, “Mommy, the king doesn’t have any clothes on! Why is he naked?”
And suddenly, the whole massive crowd could admit that they saw no finery either, and that the emperor was indeed … naked.
It’s a funny story, of course, and quite pertinent today. But I think it needs to be made more contemporary, so we get its possible meaning for our society and see if there are obvious parallels. So …
Once upon a time , there was an emperor, self-proclaimed though not elected to that office by his people. He held sway, incredibly, over a mighty nation called America – previously a democratic republic in which the people governed themselves. He accomplished this by “executive decisions,” largely ignoring the restrictions of the country’s constitution, by appointing unelected “czars” to positions of power, by hypnotizing the media into slavish acceptance of his every word and deed, promising minority groups everything they wanted at taxpayer expense, and forcing gigantic unaffordable national obligations down the throats of a mind-numbed Congress … all purposely designed to give him unbridled power no previous president ever dreamed of, or wanted.
Before most of the citizenry quite realized what was happening, he “fundamentally transformed” the country into a socialist dictatorship, ruled by an emperor. Himself.
Even he was surprised at how easily he did this, as was his fawning court. While piling impossible assignments on a hapless, hopelessly divided Congress, he played golf and took incredibly lavish vacations, always transported by the most expensive, state-of-the-art giant airplane, dubbed “Emperor I.” A slight majority of the people, hating to even entertain the idea they’d been deceived, kept telling each other the emperor was doing “his best,” though mounting unpayable debt and insane borrowing was driving the nation into bankruptcy and ruin.
Soon, the mighty regent, fairly intoxicated with his unlimited power, asked his court to devise a new impossible task for his slaves – a “sequester” – a deadline by which the Congress either gave him even greater power to tax and spend trillions of dollars however he chose, or he would have the power to hack and cut away programs that weakened the military (for which he had no regard, though he was its “commander in chief”), and hurt many innocent people who he thought would then turn to him as their savior.
Once the deadline was reached, and he felt he had won a great victory, he gave his minions a new assignment. Since he had earlier promised the “most transparent administration in history,” he asked creative people to fashion new garments for him to wear, befitting his ascendancy to near divine status. And fittingly, the designers garbed him in such diaphanous, gauzy, sheer fabrics that they were virtually invisible.
At his first public appearance, to the shock and anger of the emperor, a young lad named Bob said loudly, where millions heard him, “The emperor is naked! He’s lying to us! Why is he doing this?”
And rather than being shocked into silence, increasing numbers of previous supporters began yelling questions at the startled, suddenly embarrassed ruler.
“Why are you keeping all your early school, passport and travel records sealed permanently, so that we can never know how you came to this position? And whether you are actually, legally entitled to rule over us this way?”
“Your Highness, since no hospital in this country claims you were born there, why do you not produce an actual birth certificate or some verifiable proof of your citizenship, as the Constitution demands? What’s with your Social Security and Selective Service numbers, that first belonged to other people?”
And immediately another voice cried out, “Yeah, you told us on national TV you were putting a copy of your birth certificate on the White House website, making fun of anybody who doubted you. But when we went there to look, we found a photoshopped creation, a fraud, not a copy of anything! Just something you had somebody make up! You think we’re too dumb to notice, or afraid to do anything about it! Why are you doing this to us, to our country?”
The emperor cringed, momentarily unable to respond. He tried to look imperial, but he looked down and saw that he had indeed become transparent. The citizens, even some of his guilty co-conspirators, were seeing right through him. They began to edge away from him, hoping to melt into the growingly hostile crowd.
“Yeah, Emp,” yelled a big truck driver, “how come you appointed so many actual Communists and socialists to powerful positions? You tryin’ to make us a socialist country? You don’t like a ‘we the people’ kind of government?”
An emboldened Catholic priest called out, “Why can’t you leave marriage alone? Why do you try to force people of faith to give in to your perverted ‘evolving’ ideology? Didn’t you claim to be a Christian? Have you actually read more than a few verses of the Bible?”
Sweating and nervous, looking smaller and trying to cover his private parts, the naked man intoned, “I am not a dictator. I’m not really an emperor … I’m the president.”
At that, realizing they’d been duped, even swindled and lied to, the massive crowd began to chant angrily, “The TRUTH! THE TRUTH! TELL US THE TRUTH!”
Unable or unwilling to do what they asked, the small naked man made his way into the crowd – and disappeared.