Saturday, November 06, 2010

What the Emperor Doesn't Know

Most of us remember well Hans Christian Andersen's delightful tale of the emperor who searched far and wide for the very finest clothes, suits of golden fabric and silver threads, clothes so perfect, so exquisite that they can be seen and appreciated only by those fit for the positions they hold. Only those operating above their skills and the hopelessly stupid fail to see the stunning colors, the shimmering waves of color, the lustrous styling.

Just as in Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average, so to are the Emperor's courtiers, his staff, the academics and elite of the day truly extraordinary. Each of them sees the beauty of the cloth, the perfection of the fit, the beauty of the artistry adorning their emperor. The appreciation spreads, almost virally, driven by the repetition and strength of the adoring comments. It becomes a universal enthusiasm of early 19th century Copenhagen society.

The emperor, being an incredibly intelligent man and certain of his own abilities as the leader of his people, is wildly enthusiastic about the weavers' magic and awestruck by the look created by the fabric hanging on his magnificent body. Fevered with pride, he creates an opportunity to parade his sartorial and intellectual brilliance for the appreciation of all his citizens.

President Obama, 2010
In Anderson's tale, a young boy breaks the spell of the crowd massed for the emperor's parade, "But he has nothing on at all! The emperor has no clothes." Soon, the cry is taken up by all the others who, reassured that their neighbors, not all of whom could be incompetent or hopelessly stupid, could obviously see what they themselves could finally admit. Their own eyes weren't lying; the emperor was completely nude. The emperor, caught between embarrassments, recognized that he was in fact, stark naked for all to see. To save face before his subjects, he chose to carry on without hesitation, acting as though nothing at all was wrong.

President Obama stands before the American people today, wearing nothing more than a teleprompter script.

The question is, does he recognize his own nakedness? Is he attempting to carry on to save face? Or is he completely mesmerized by his own golden words and silver phrases, sadly unable to see that he stands before us uncovered by anything of substance even as the crowd begins to recognize that he has no clothes?

Our President has nothing on at all.


Anonymous said...

The correct name of te famous writer is Hans Christian AndersEn (no AndersOn). Bye.

Bob Leibowitz said...

Right you are. Thank you for the correction!