The President's Clothes: A vignette

Some time ago, I traveled in one of those little countries where government, being too weak to restrict the local gangs, was also too weak for politics to be a career choice of warlords. This lack of power, however, allowed the local government to retain some democracy. The elected leader was loved by the people, and they had great hope in him. He was friends with western powers, and managed to keep some semblance of order without seeming tyrannical. This was uninteresting to the normal reporters, and so the country of which I speak was generally ignored in the news. It is surprising, when one looks at a map, to find so many places so rarely in the news, perhaps it is even hopeful.

In any case, one day, the president of that nation displayed himself before his people, as presidents so often do. He clothed himself as best as he could with all the best histories of democracy, with all its hope and faith. Which is to say, he went out before the crowd naked, like that fictitious emperor of a bad fable. Of course, all the people believed he was clothed. They hoped he was clothed, in power and ability. They hoped he was clothed in the power to make things better, and without enough power to make things worse.

A child, somewhere in the crowd, laughed, as children do. Her mother hushed her, as mothers do. “But Mommy," the child said, "the president is naked!” The crowd turned on the child with such fierce looks and disapproved so loudly that the child, wisely, never spoke of the nakedness of the president again.

No comments: