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The Emperor’s New Wall

The Wall was a solution that wasn’t. But best of all, the Wall was an answer to an imaginary problem that the Others would pay for.

It was from Hans Christian Andersen that I first learned of Emperors. The way Hans tells it, there was an Emperor with enough dough to buy himself many closets full of clothes, the most beautiful he could find. His vanity and greed were known to all, far and wide. It seems “in the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.”

This Emperor, like ours, was suspicious of those he had surrounded himself with. And if he wore those clothes, he’d be able to “tell the wise men from the fools …” And so he contracted with the weasel weavers. And sent his old minister to check on their progress.

It was a brilliant con. Not surprisingly, those who preferred to live another day weren’t prepared to fail the Emperor’s test. The weavers “pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn’t see anything, because there was nothing to see. ‘Heaven have mercy,’ he thought. ‘Can it be that I’m a fool? I’d have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can’t see the cloth.’

Turning the knife just a bit, one of the weavers said to the minister: “Don’t hesitate to tell us what you think of it.” And the minister replied: “Oh, it’s beautiful — it’s enchanting … Such a pattern, what colors! I’ll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it.”

I hope Hans won’t mind if we jump ahead to the Emperor strutting naked through the town square and that moment when he hears from the child who can’t help but shout out: “But he hasn’t got anything on.” And the people, emboldened, embraced the truth: “‘But he hasn’t got anything on!’ the whole town cried out at last. The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, ‘This procession has got to go on.’ So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.”

Image courtesy Skegness Town Council

That, of course, was then and this is now. And Hans’ Emperor didn’t have a Twitter handle or a Communications Shop or his own Sarah Huckle Berry or KellyAmy Convoy. Otherwise, the Capitol City Town Criers would have been out in force, on boulevards and back roads, with many a Hear Ye, Hear Ye: “The Emperor, Our Great Emperor, He’s Got Nothing To Hide!”

Because those in the communications biz make a living turning lemons into lemonade. It says something about the times we live in that there are all kinds of ways to describe their work: pitching and spinning and branding and promoting. The all-inclusive marketing.

As one who occasionally has made a buck spinning, I’m disappointed in the work of those in the employ of today’s Emperor, Individual No. 1.

Like many an Emperor, ours has lived high on the hog while most everyone who wasn’t his friend or family or supported him in return for special favors has lived a much more modest life. Prone, on occasion, to wonder why this was so. Why was the royal daughter and the royal sons and his little-bit-less-than-royal daughter-in-law exempt from the onerous taxation so many others labored under? And how was it that family members were employed by the Division of Royal Resorts and the Course de Royal Golf at a rate of many millions of gold ducats per annum?

Course de Royal Golf. Photo courtesy

As many laborers and peasants struggled to make ends meet and as discord seeped throughout the land, it was Bannon of Steve and Stephen of Miller who often reminded the Court of the enduring power of the Others. The They. The Them. Who by their very nature brought with Them the Darkness.

It was Roger the Stone, Master of the Manufactured Threat, who first imagined the Wall. And in that moment, he heard the clarion call: “Build the Wall,” and, it was, if he had to say so himself, the very perfect turn of phrase.

Almost immediately the Emperor was convinced to send his minions to the far ends of the realm; to distract the people from the many poxes they suffered from, and rising fees of the apothecaries. The climbing costs of everyday living. So Pence the Mike headed for the Heartland where once he dwelled. Mevanka, the Favorite Daughter, traveled north to Metropolis where once she sold her overpriced wares on Madison off Main. While Kushner the Jared and devoted Mate of Mevanka journeyed to Jersey New where he sold and rented his leaky but exorbitant cottages and condominiums. And Wilbur the Ross sailed his yacht to the Mar A Lago, where poor people (including many of the Others) mopped the floors of the golden dining rooms.

At rallies massive and modest, at county fairs and rodeos, in saloons and slaughterhouses, at the better houses of pleasure where congregated the most favored of the Emperor’s supporters, the couriers told a single story. They’re coming. The caravan of criminals. Speaking a language none of us who deserve to live here could ever understand. Bringing with them drugs that will fry our brains. Stealing children to pretend they’re parents. And this part which Stephen the Miller stressed, even writing it out on cards for them to refer to: “And the kidnapped women with duct tape put around their faces, around their mouths. In many cases, they can’t even breathe. They’re put in the backs of donkey-carts. They don’t go through your port of entry. They make a right turn going very quickly. Or on camels in the desert areas, or whatever areas you can look at. And as soon as there’s no protection, they make a left or a right into the United States of America. There’s nobody to catch them. There’s nobody to find them.”

Then, with a beat or two, Pence the Mike reminded all who could hear him how much he adored He Who Ruled Us. There was Mevanka, a single, ripe tear falling down her cheek whenever she mentioned the stolen kids. And Kushner the Jared who tried hard to hide his knowing smirk. There was Wilbur the Ross pausing between the caravan and the duct tape because he just plain forgot for a moment what he was supposed to say.

Four different storytellers. Always there was the duct tape and a caravan and the purloined children who belonged to none of them and the fentanyl, which almost none of them really knew anything about but suspected it was bad. And the Wall.

In the early days, many loved the Wall. How could you not love the Wall? Unlike hunger or poverty or the leaking roof, your disobedient children, the neighbor who mows his grass at 5 in the morning, the caravan was a crisis that wasn’t. And the Wall was a solution that wasn’t. But best of all, the Wall was an answer to an imaginary problem that the Others would pay for.

The Royal Tax Collector, who was already collecting taxes for the never-ending war across the sea, for the private jets for the Secretary of the Exterior and his mistress, for the mahogany bidet in the bathroom of the Secretary for the Sales of Public Lands to the Friends of the Emperor, for the midnight limousine rides to the Emperor’s Casino for the Secretary of Nonexistent Housing for the Poor, well, thanks to the generosity of the Others who’d be paying for the Wall, well, Royal Tax Collector wouldn’t be coming around for at least another month.

This, in itself, was a reason to celebrate. And understandably many wanted to encourage the Royal Tax Collector to stay away as long as possible so they were more than glad to help out by chanting whenever the Emperor’s Storytellers seemed to sputter: “Build the Wall! Build the Wall! Build the Wall!” And, of course, because the storytellers sometimes seemed less than fully committed to the tale, they intervened with energy, prompting: “Who Is Going to Pay for the Wall?” they asked rhetorically, their answer at the ready. All but Wilbur the Ross figured out the next necessary step. And, so the storytellers except for Wilbur the Ross, who would dutifully repeat the required question: “Who Is Going to Pay for the Wall?” And the people, thinking of the Royal Tax Collector, would happily yell back: “The Others!” Even though some of them knew members of the Others and many often interacted with them. Still, it was easy enough to chant, and the sound of “the Others” would ripple through the meeting halls.

It was, for a while, a glorious call and response collaboration. Hans himself might have described it as the perfect performance. Sadly, some in the Royal House of White began to believe in the Wall, and believe that the people disliked the Others as much as they did. Roger the Stone and Ann of Coulter and Limbo Who Rushed began to imagine a wall from Sea to Shining Sea. A real wall. A big wall. Because, they more than most, loved being close to the Emperor. And they, more than most, hated the Others. And even though most of those coming were women and children and even though very few of the Others were truly a danger, even one of them was more than enough.

And so they whispered in the ear of the Emperor. Have you heard the people chanting? Build the Wall, the people say. In the East, the West, the North and the South. So many chanting “Build the Wall!” And before anyone knew what was happening, the Emperor thought Ann of Coulter might be right—that the people, as much as he, wanted the Wall.

When the Emperor announced the Royal Contest for the Royal Wall, inventors and engineers and architects, dreaming of ducats, began to sketch and plot and plan and make their models. All of a sudden, the most perfect wall that wasn’t was turning into a wall that no one wanted.

Mini-wall models. Photo courtesy

Perhaps he should never, ever have built those mini-walls. For the crooked weavers knew that nothing is a lot better than something. That it’s a heck of a lot easier to sell people on a wall that doesn’t exist, a wall you don’t have to pay for, than a real wall that you can tunnel under, cut your way through, or climb over—a wall that won’t work but costs a pretty penny.

Those who had made the coat of many invisible could have told the Emperor that there is but a thin line between spinning and winning, a successful bob and weave, and pushing your luck. And these weavers knew when to skip town. They took the money and ran. While the Emperor stayed where he was. In the House of White in Capitol City.

And then the word went out. Of the eight mini-walls, the Emperor loved the Wall of Slats. Loved the steel more than the concrete. And the word, never officially acknowledged by those in Court, spread across the land that the Others wouldn’t pay. That the Others had actually counted and now knew that more people had moved from the land of the Emperor to their land than the other way around. And that while they had been perfectly willing to pay for a Wall That Wasn’t, they certainly weren’t interested in paying for a Wall That Would Be.

And the word went out that the Emperor had taken out his Royal Pen and Royal Paper and he had taken some royal calculations and determined that while there was no telling how much the Sea to Shining Sea Wall might cost, a first section of the Wall of Slats of Steel, a down payment you could call it, would cost a mere 5.7 billion of royal ducats.

Steel-slat wall. Photo: Eric Gay/AP

There were some in the Royal Court who understood that this was not good news. And many members of the House of the Commonfolk suggested that their constituents, the people, even those who had chanted, might not be pleased to see the Royal Tax Collector once again on their doorstep. The Speaker of the House of the Commonfolk sat across from the Emperor and suggested this might not be the best time to build a wall. Why not, for the moment, repair some roads or fix some bridges or maybe even build a school or two?

But the Emperor still remembered the loud and fervent cries of “Build the Wall.” And the more his counselors reminded him of the duct tape, the more he hated the Others. And so he chose not to listen to the Members of the House of the Commonfolk or to his Chief Counselor John the Kelly. He banished Mattis the James, General Number One. But listened to Stephen the Miller, He Who Was Known to Many as the One Who Knew So Little About So Much. And for reasons that astonished many, the Emperor embraced full-heartedly the advice of Ann the Coulter and the Limbo Who Rushed. They who Despised the State Deep, and most of all the House of the Commonfolk, and had always advocated emptying the Publick Treasury and giving the people’s money to the favored few—a much-needed tax cut, they called it.

The House of the Commonfolk. Photo courtesy

More and more the plans for this real wall raised some serious questions. The people asked their Members of the House of the Commonfolk these important questions: when, where, how much? Because for all the speeches and rallies and the fervent chants, the Emperor and his counselors had never, ever talked turkey. Whose farm would be taken? Whose view would disappear?

And while all could live with an imaginary wall, the real thing engendered doubt and disturbance. At the southern border, the ranchers wondered: would a real wall mean less land for their llamas? And those who came from the country below ours, those who came across the border to care for the cows and feed the pheasants and pick the tomatoes, would they be able to make it the many miles away to the official hole in the wall to cross the border in time for morning milking?

These questions annoyed the Emperor no end. How dare they criticize the Royal Wall? Had they forgotten about the duct tape? He yelled as loud as he could that the members of the House of the Commonfolk were liars and lazy and crazy and incompetent. They were lovers of crime and the caravans. Like John the Kelly and Mattis the James, they cared not for the kingdom. He ranted and he raved. He took out his Royal Pen and Wrote a Royal Declaration. Declaring the Emergency. And closing the House of the Commonfolk. Closing the royal highways and byways, the bridges and the tunnels.

Hundreds of thousands clogged the streets of Capitol City and the town squares of cities large and small. Workers wouldn’t work and farmers wouldn’t farm and the Kingdom was in crisis.

Discord bubbled and boiled. The Royal Tax Collector was found duct-taped to the fence of the Royal House of White. Stephen the Miller disappeared in the dead of night and was found, two days later, babbling incoherently about the hundred caravans he had seen while duct-taped to a camel that wandered the Southern Border. Ann of Coulter was found bound and gagged in a broom closet at Mar A Lago. All the Others employed at minimum wage told the police that they had never heard her cries. Sarah Huckle Berry was discovered in a madhouse in Bethesda chanting, “Build the Wall,” while Limbo Who Rushed knew better than to tempt fate and took a two-week vacation without telling anyone where he went.

The Emperor ranted and he raved some more. Even Mevanka knew he was mad.

It was from Hans Christian Andersen that Nancy of Pelosi, leader of the House of the Commonfolk, first learned of Emperors. And it was Nancy who hatched the plan, which involved the Royal Chef and the Royal Air Force and 20,000 members of the McAllen, Texas, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the ROTC, Chamber of Commerce, and registered nurses and rodeo clowns and attendees of the San Carlos Farmers’ Market and various and sundry taxpayers of Hidalgo County.

Mushrooms of Magic. Photo courtesy Mushroom Observer

It began on Tuesday afternoon when the Royal Chef prepared Cream of Magic Mushroom Soup for lunch, so rich and creamy, the Emperor couldn’t help but have several extra servings. It continued on as the Emperor’s Guard escorted the Emperor onto the Royal Jet. And as the Emperor and Mevanka and Nancy flew from the Capitol City, Schumer of Chuck rehearsed the crowd. And they were ready and willing because they wanted to work and they wanted to farm and they had hoped the Royal Tax Collector had learned his lesson. Three hours later, the Emperor, his head filled with beautiful butterflies, found himself in the stunning Santa Ana National Wildfire Refuge in Hildalgo County of South Texas.

Surrounded by 20,000 Texans cheering and chanting, “The Wall. The Wall. You Built the Wall. Such a wonderful Wall. The Emperor’s Wall.”

And Nancy of Pelosi quieted the crowd. “I thank the Emperor from the bottom of my heart, because he has built us a wonderful wall of shiny steel. As he promised, this is not a medieval wall. This is a smart wall with see-through visibility and cutting-edge technology.”

The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Hidalgo County, Texas. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

And as she raised her right arm, 20,000 Texans chanted: “The Wall. The Wall. You Built Us the Wall. Such a wonderful Wall. The Emperor’s New Wall.”

And in his mind, the Emperor saw his beautiful wall. And he smiled to the crowd. And he waved to the crowd. And as Nancy of Pelosi raised her left arm, 20,000 Texans chanted: “The Wall. The Wall. You Built Us the Wall. Such a wonderful Wall. The Emperor’s New Wall.”

And as he and Mevanka flew the Royal Jet back to the Royal House of White, the Emperor called his new Chief Counselor, Mulvaney the Mike and ordered him to reopen the House of the Commonfolk. The Emperor called the Royal Chef and told him to prepare a great big batch of Cream of Magic Mushroom Soup. He turned to Mevanka and said “The Wall is a wonderful wall.” Then fell into a deep and restful sleep, lost in a lovely dreamland, his new, steel-slat wall reflecting colors uncommonly fine.

And from that day forward, everyone in the land was taught that the Emperor’s New Wall was a wonderful wall.


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