Even when we see the carnage in Las Vegas of 58 victims dead and 527 injured—in yet another “deadliest shooting in U.S. history”—our leaders fail to believe their eyes when they see gun violence. In a prepared statement, Trump studiously avoided acknowledging the truth of the divisions in our country, insisting that, “In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one—and it always has.”
Each time I hear him deny another reality of the division in our country, I wonder whether Donald Trump ever asks himself the age-old question the Emperor asks himself in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”: “I can see nothing! This is indeed a terrible affair! Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen.”
Each time I hear voices suggest that Donald Trump is unfit for his office, I wonder if we’re becoming a modern day version of a very old story.
So far his staff has been as predictable as the advisers to Anderson’s fictitious emperor. “It would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don’t fully know all the facts or what took place last night,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Like the emperor’s subjects in the fairy tale, we need to heed the tiny voice that speaks truth to the president’s naked falsehoods in the face of politicians who will not.
Trump has surrounded himself with advisers who scurry about, denying the evidence before them in an effort to maintain their positions. Like the advisers in the fairy tale, government officials seem to respond with various versions on this same theme: “Is it possible that I am a simpleton? I have never thought so myself; and no one must know it now if I am so. Can it be, that I am unfit for my office? No, that must not be said either. I will never confess that I could not see the stuff.”
Even when the voices of 20 innocent children were permanently silenced at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, most politicians refused to see the evidence in front of them.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, father of the current White House press secretary, said of that tragedy, “We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”
In fact, just last week Alabama’s Republicans nominated Roy Moore in the primary—a candidate who said, “You wonder why we’re having problems in Newtown, Connecticut? All across our country with killing, stealing, committing adultery? Because we’ve forgotten the law of God.”
While they believe in a God they can’t see, they refuse to see the results of the idol they’ve created in the name of the Second Amendment—that this worship of absolute gun rights is penetrating the arteries of innocents and destroying the lifeblood of our democracy.
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell refused even to address the shootings when the ABC host asked about gun control. “The biggest problem we have at the moment is spending and debt…None of these issues, I think, will have the kind of priority that spending and debt are going to have.”
Like the advisers to the Emperor, McConnell and many others refuse even to see what is obvious to an overwhelming majority of our citizens. According to a Pew Research poll conducted in June of this year, over 80% of Americans favor laws requiring background checks and preventing the mentally ill and those on watch lists from purchasing guns. And two-thirds of Americans favor a ban on assault weapons.
Those numbers are sure to rise, as they always do in the aftermath of another “deadliest” shooting yet.
House speaker Paul Ryan had this to say after Sandy Hook: “I’m concerned that new gun control laws are going to build up a false sense of security among the people in our country. And we’re gonna lose precious time where we can better spend that time passing very important laws that will actually reduce crime.”
It’s not the 80+% of us who favor sensible gun control measures who have a false sense of security. It’s the minority of Americans who are amassing arsenals in the belief that they can prevent tyranny in government.
Republican officials are clothing themselves in the garments of Anderson’s emperor and parading through the halls of Congress while the rest of us look on open-mouthed at their naked audacity.
Anderson ends his fairy tale in this way:
“But the Emperor has nothing at all on!” said a little child.
“Listen to the voice of innocence!” exclaimed his father; and what the child had said was whispered from one to another.
“But he has nothing at all on!” at last cried out all the people.
There is hope for us. In the 36 hours since the shootings, officials who object to gun control measures have been largely silent. The NRA has delayed its political ads in Virginia’s gubernatorial race for a week. House Republicans have pulled a bill loosening restrictions on gun silencers and are considering pulling another that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to take their guns across state lines (“The Daily 202,” Washington Post).
Late night television hosts put comedy on the back burner Monday evening to speak out for sensible gun control measures. And the drumbeat is getting louder, as it always does in the aftermath of another tragedy.
But until at last all the people cry out, we remain mired in the emperor’s parade.