The Elephant in the Room

Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” has been a classic of children’s literature for more than 180 years. In the story, a very vain and superficial king, who cares about nothing except fine clothes and being admired, is approached by a couple of men who claim to be tailors who are able to weave fabrics so special and beautiful that only some people can actually see them. Those who are either stupid or unfit to hold their positions of power are incapable of viewing the rich fabrics.

The king, unable to rein in his massive ego, quickly employs the two confidence men to produce the material and outfit him with a new wardrobe. The men work late into the night on empty looms, pretending to sew. The king sends his most trusted advisor to check on the progress and the swindlers ask him if he has ever seen such exquisite patterns and colors as they pretend to hold up the fabric. The advisor, thinking he must be stupid for not seeing the material, gushes over its beauty, so that they will not find out his secret. He reports back to the king that the work is proceeding splendidly.

Other advisors are also sent to check on the weaving, and in order to not admit unfitness for their positions, all feign seeing the non-existent clothing. Finally, the king is taken to see the new suit, and is inwardly stunned when he sees nothing at all, questioning his own fitness for office. With all of his retinue oohing and aahing over the new clothes, the king fearfully joins in the deception.

The next day, the king announces a huge procession in which he will display his beautiful clothes to his subjects, thronged in the palace courtyard. As he makes his appearance, naked save his crown, the gathered multitudes all cheer for the sheer majesty of their dear leader. No one, of course, sees anything but a naked monarch, but all are too afraid to admit it.

Not all those Americans who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 can be blamed for what has now become, obviously, the most corrupt and inept presidency of our Republic’s history. More corrupt than the Grant or Harding administrations; vying for ultimate ineptitude honors with James Buchanan’s. The erosion of long-held American values over the past year and a half is staggering.

No, the blame must lie with the GOP party elders who allowed Trump’s nomination to happen. They all saw early on that the man was dangerous and without moral fiber, but chose to ignore it. Even worse, they oohed and aahed and convinced millions of folks out in the hinterlands that, despite his obvious flaws, the country would be okay if they just gave him a chance. The Republican rank-and-file knew from decades of suitable, even at most times laudable, choices for the top of the GOP ticket, that they could trust the elders (i.e., delegates, electors) to not allow an imbecilic or heartless man to carry the party standard.

That’s just what the GOP did, and now, we are where we are. The institutions and values we have held dear since the days of the Founding Fathers are under attack, and yet many still support his presidency.

The emperor has no clothes. Everyone can see it. But some feel as if they will be labeled as disloyal, or un-American, or stupid, or unfit to hold office if they don’t keep up the pretense. The question is, how long will they continue the charade? Many of our fellow citizens are just like the child at the end of the Andersen story, who bravely declares the truth. They are ready to join the chorus of fact and verity, they just need a little nudge, like the assembled crowd at the end of Andersen’s tale, which reads as follows:

And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So, he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.

 

Christopher Fairchild is the editor of Panacea magazine and Welcome to Fayette magazine, and works as a photographer and graphic designer for Fayette Newspapers.

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