It’s June 2, 2018, my 70th birthday. I’ve written this as if I were speaking with David Hogg, Emma Gonzales and all the kids at Stoneman-Douglas:
I am sure you are aware of the Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen. But did you know that the tale had its roots in oligarchical medieval days and may trace back as far as to Aesop?
As we witness a vain president attempting to pull the wool over our eyes, seeming to want nothing but praise from his subjects, this tale seems strangely apropos today.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
A vain emperor, who cares about nothing except being seen as handsome and beautiful, hires weavers who promise they will make him a magical suit of clothes. The weavers are con-men, and they convince the stupid emperor they are using a fine fabric that is invisible to anyone who is stupid. The weavers only pretend to manufacture the clothes; they mime the actions, but there is no cloth at all being weaved. Thus, no one, not even the emperor nor his ministers can actually see the alleged “clothes”. But when the emperors declares that his new clothes are invisible to anyone that is stupid they all pretend they see the clothes for fear of appearing stupid. The emperor also does the same of course, and it’s quite comical.
Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished, they pretend to dress him in the suit, and the emperor marches in a royal before his subjects. The townsfolk go along with the pretense. Not wanting to appear stupid, they marvel at how beautiful the king’s clothes are. Suddenly, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the emperor naked! Only then is the cry is taken up by the adults. The emperor realizes the crowd’s assertion is true, but he continues with the procession in total embarrassment as the crowd mocks him and the weavers escape with their payment.
Andersen’s tale is based on a 1335 story from the Libro de los ejemplos, a medieval Spanish collection of fifty-one cautionary tales with various sources such as Aesop and other classical writers and Persian folktales, by Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena (1282–1348).
This is a tale that had its origins when there were actual kings and subjects – oligarchical times for sure. And so in these neo-oligarchical times there is something to learn from this old tale. Notice that it’s a child that exposes the king. There is a reason for that.
As a child of the hippie generation, I can tell you we had big dreams and saw the hypocrisy in parts ( not all ) of our parent’s generation. That’s what 1968 was all about. Protests against Johnson and the Vietnam War was just part of our quasi-revolutionary mind set. But after graduating college, and particularly after becoming parents, many of us got sucked up into the same system hooked our parents. There was so much opportunity back then compared to now, it was easy to get sucked into the same system that we were protesting against just a few years earlier. Weird, huh? But true.
This medieval tale informs us that this all has been going on for a very long time. And so children, whilst you are young and before you form the bonds marriages and have kids, you are in life’s special time-zone when you can see the hypocrisy in the systems in our society and are not yet afraid to expose it. And that reminds me that there is at least one big difference between 2018 and 1968.
In 1968, we protested against the hypocrisy of people, but ended up embracing the systems the systems they deployed. Today the young are protesting against the systems and laws as well as the people that hold on to what seems more and more to be a dysfunctional government and culture. I don’t differentiate much between culture and government. To me they are both just aggregates of people with the large power of a mob and a general credo.
Students of Stoneman-Douglas: This summer of 2018 compares to the summer of 1968. It’s super important that you not only continue attacking our broken systems ( which so many of us admire in you all ) but also call BS on the people who profit from and embrace these broken systems. That outcry must include the president, who is the standard-bearer for all these broken systems, including gun laws. We must insist that no man is above the law. We can’t devolve into a society that allows our rulers and their friends to buy their way out of criminal behavior. That’s not what America is all about. I am sure you now that.
Of course, our American vain emperor would love to experience nothing but praise from his subjects. From that protected authoritarian dais, he and his financial allies can continue to work behind the scenes, back-channel and profit from these broken systems at the expense of the general public.
And this is not only about smart gun laws any more. Stupid gun laws are a symptom the larger dysfunction. The refusal of the majority in congress, the GOP, to create laws that our citizens actually want and need will only wane when Trump and the GOP lose big time at the ballot box this November 2018. I want this to be a November to remember for the rest of your lives.
Stay vocal. The powers in control are going to try and fix the election again. This election is even more important to them that the last one. Why? Because if Trump had lost, they had Hillary who more or less embraced that same broken system the way Obama did. But if they lose this time, they could lose it all. Power could return to the people here in the USA. Unions will negotiate better wages and cut down the owner/worker pay ratio. Real-healthcare, access to education and infrastructure improvement become doable options. What a mess for the industrialists in control of this broken machine, right?
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The crowd in the Emperor’s New Clothes only changes its position when a child exposes the obvious truth. That is the teachable part of this old tale. Your parents want to believe in you. This is not new. They will even take this battle cry up with you if you stay loud and determined. And this summer of 2018 we must.
We have a president and a congress that is trying to put themselves above the law, keep their ill-gotten gains, and expand upon the broken system licenses cars but not guns. The system is not broken for them. It’s broken for us! And we all will continue to pay if they stay in power.
Trump, as the system’s figurehead, will try and sell you that the economy is doing better. I say what?! Are the people doing better? Not really. We have fallen behind all the first world countries is vital stats like life-expectancy and education. Select economical stats are not the be-all-end-all of a society. The German economy got better under Hitler too – for a while.
I still believe your sheriff’s VOTE THEM OUT is the best battle cry for this summer. It resounds on both sides of the aisle and seems to unconsciously say “vote the swamp out” without partisanship. It’s a message that we all can identify with these days, and that’s really all we need.
Stay vocal this summer!
sent with love,