Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Grim Fairy Tale

One of my favorite fairy tales as a child was "The Emperor's New Clothes". It would have been read to me from a volume of Hans Christian Andersen's stories. The book had few pictures, which was fine. I could easily imagine the pompous old emperor in his underwear, thinking he was outfitted in the finest cloth ever woven. I was always the child in the crowd who cried out, "But he hasn't got anything on!"

It's probably no coincidence that my other favorite Andersen tales were "The Princess and the Pea", "The Poor Little Match Girl" and "The Red Shoes"— all fashion-related in a way. What can I say? It started early.

For those not familiar with "The Emperor's New Clothes", the emperor was a vain fellow who cared more about clothes than running his country. He was convinced by two would-be swindlers (not named Bannon and Scaramucci) that they could weave beautiful cloth with magical properties. Only one worthy of his position could see it. The fabric would be invisible to the unworthy. The emperor dearly wanted a suit cut from this magical cloth. He paid the weavers their exorbitant fee and was assured by his ministers that the cloth was magnificent (though none of them could see it). The emperor couldn't see it ether but would never admit to that. In the end he parades before his people clad only in his underwear. It takes the little child to say out loud what everyone was thinking.

So here we are today. At this point many of us know the emperor isn't wearing any clothes; some of us have come right out and said so. It may even sound like "I told you he wasn't wearing any clothes." Others have finally noticed: "He's really not wearing any clothes, is he?" There will always be those who see clothes that aren't there. Very good imaginations or susceptible to suggestion?

His courtiers were afraid to tell the emperor what almost everyone else knew. There were no clothes. He wasn't wearing any. People were laughing at him. And when people are laughing at you, it doesn't matter whether you are wearing nothing or a long red tie and a boxy suit.