The Emperor’s New Mask

Clete Wetli | May 14, 2020 | Opinion Article

Not too long ago, I wrote a piece about how whether we like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic is political. I didn’t realize how deeply true and prophetic that statement was at the time, nor how it would intensify due primarily to Trump’s deranged and dangerous rhetoric. It reminded me of how Trump once said he could shoot someone in Time Square and his followers would still vote for him. Inexplicably, he’s mismanaged this crisis from the beginning, and he’s obliterated the healthy economy he inherited from Obama. Yet, his base solidly continues to support him with cultish allegiance.

Due to his poor judgment and his staggering incompetence, over 84,000 Americans are dead, more than 25% of America is unemployed, tens of millions have no health insurance, and there’s no cohesive national plan for a science-based safe recovery. Now, he’s attacking Dr. Fauci, the non-partisan preeminent infectious disease expert that has served six presidents because he doesn’t like Fauci’s insistence on telling the truth. Yeah, this is coming from a guy who recently visited a mask factory in the middle of a deadly pandemic but refuses to wear one himself due to his laughable vanity and delusions that he is some sort of infallible emperor.

So, like many Americans, I’ve watched Trump go from calling this pandemic a Democratic hoax to suggesting that people inject themselves with disinfectant to getting rid of the highly competent Dr. Rick Bright, who was the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority because Trump didn’t want to hear about facts or reality. Trump’s ridiculous statements and actions got me thinking and it occurred to me that we’ve all heard this story before when we were kids. We are witnessing the real-life version of Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

In Andersen’s fable, two unscrupulous tailors con a narcissistic emperor out of a ton of money by duping him into believing that they are making him the best clothes in, as Trump would say, the history of clothes. However, the tailors do nothing more than pocket the cash while they and the emperor’s sycophants convince him that the “invisible”, actually non-existent, garments are real until the emperor believes it himself. The story ends with the emperor proudly parading himself naked throughout the town believing that people are cheering him because of his magnificent clothes. Of course, he’s too consumed with vanity to know the difference between cheers and jeers. Andersen wrote the classic for children to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of pride and vanity.

In Alabama, we’ve seen Republican Sen. Pro Tem Del Marsh act like the emperor’s tailor by trying to divert COVID-19 federal relief money meant to help people and businesses devastated by the crisis toward building a new statehouse. Trump sycophants like Gov. Kay Ivey said they would make decisions about reopening based on science and data, but instead she chose to ignore the data and to follow Trump’s rush to prematurely lift restrictions on businesses where social distancing is virtually impossible. Ivey made this decision as infection rates and deaths continue to rise in Alabama.

As armed right-wing extremists continue to protest stay-at-home orders across the country, the cult of Trump continues to lavish praise on their feckless, arrogant emperor. They are more than eager to say whatever outlandish thing that they think will soothe Trump’s fragile ego to maintain their own power and profit.

The real-life version of this fairy tale has shown us that very few Republicans have the courage to speak truth to power. Most Republicans are using this crisis as a way to further their own narrow political agendas while millions suffer and tens of thousands die.

Don’t believe your own eyes, Trump’s new mask is beautiful- everyone is saying it. The best mask in the history of masks and completely American made. No one’s ever seen a mask like Trump’s. No one.

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