The famous tale written by Hans Christian Andersen ends with a child pointing out to all the adults, “the Emperor has no clothes!”
Recently, I was speaking with a reporter back in the U.S who is writing a “year in review” piece and wanted to discuss women and empowerment all under the umbrella of the current political climate and ongoing social conversation.
As I prepared for the interview, I pulled headline upon headline, looking back on stories over the course of the last year. It made me angry all over again. The demise of leadership showcased within the confines of 150 characters. And of course, the list of atrocities goes on and on.
While we all watch, I am drawn to the above-mentioned tale of the Emperor with no clothes. The story, while fictional, seems to be playing out in front of our eyes as the backdrop of American politics and continues with each passing day.
It is still baffling to think how the greatest illusionist of our time now sits in the Oval Office, representing an entire nation where only 32% of the population approve of his policies. I am certain that number would be even lower if there were a poll to solely rate his behavior, particularly twitter posts fueled my nonsense and narcissism or vulgar diatribes about women from the back of a tour bus. And while his behavior may prove head-scratching, even more alarming are those willing to turn a blind eye to the behavior, along with bad decisions and a clear lack of concern for the greater good.
Last year, I sat in my office and read a manuscript titled “How the Religious Right Lost Its Influence.” The proposal hit my desk 2 weeks prior to the election. A week after, the same proposal was rewritten and retitled, “How the Religious Right Won the Election.”
I have referenced that moment a few times over the course of the last few months and I keep coming back to it.
As I sat and thought about the last year and remembered that proposal again, it got me thinking about religion, the influence on politics, and where it all went sideways. Headline upon headline using a religious undertone to excuse bad behavior.
My understanding of religion is simple and weighted by the Golden Rule. That in mind, I find myself perplexed trying to pinpoint the precise moment the “Religious Right” took ownership of someone who can be likened to a schoolyard bully, supporting a man whose behavior is appalling.
I thought about my own understanding of Jesus – a man who walked with the poor, helped the weak, and embraced kindness at every turn – even when there were those who wanted to harm him and wish death upon him. Selfless, compassionate, and empathetic.
I recently read an article by John Pavlovitz, a voice I have come to respect and look towards for commentary on current social issues. The piece was titled, “Trump’s America would be a living Hell for Jesus.”
A dark-skinned, itinerant, refugee Jesus wouldn’t be allowed in.
He’d be denied healthcare, detained at the airport, separated from his family, trolled relentlessly on Twitter, accosted by torch-bearing marchers, vilified by pulpit-pounding preachers, and branded a terrorist by the President himself in incendiary fake videos and fear-baiting Tweets.
An interesting piece, considering some of the loudest voices coming forward in support of the current administration and leadership in place are those claiming to be Christians. I question if those calling for the support of men like Roy Moore or who turn a blind eye to the blatant disregard of others actually know what that even means or if it has simply been turned into a political position used to undermine vulnerable people.
Distorting reality and blurring the line between right and wrong, between politics and religion.
At some point, people started thinking their rights were better than those of others and used religion to excuse their misguided behavior.
But it doesn’t work that way.
Rights and Religion – the two are not interchangeable, particularly not at your own convenience. You can’t claim “religious liberty” one moment and then use the same principles to take away the rights of others. You can’t say “baking a cake for a gay wedding endorses homosexuality” yet reject that “voting for a child molester endorses pedophilia.” Hypocrisy at its finest.
We have allowed ourselves to become so blinded by our own agenda, we have forgotten what it means to simply do the right thing. We have forgotten that it is our differences that make us unique and when unified, we have the capability to change the world, to do great things.
Greatness is not defined by the amount of money in your bank account or the number of cars in your driveway, but by your ability to acclimate in any situation and embrace people from all walks of life regardless of race, religion, gender, or economic status. Great leaders are humbled to be in the presence of others because they understand the value that each person’s individuality, experiences, and unique perspective can bring to the table. They are inclusive and understanding. All things we could use a bit more of these days.
But, how do we get there when simple concepts we teach our children seem to be lost on adults elected to positions of leadership? Unfortunate behavior and meager policies aside, when you lead from a selfish place you miss an opportunity to learn from others, to potentially find a workable solution.
We are all here in this moment together. We can no longer look back and wonder how we got here. We are here faced with a decision to act with intent for change or remain stuck. Continuing to focus on the problem is simply going to further propagate the problem. It is time to turn our attention towards the solution.
Supporters who continue to come to the defense of a man whose actions are horrendous and remain oblivious to the destruction left in the wake of his path are not likely to be the people who will come alongside you. Instead, look for those willing to admit “buyer’s remorse.”
Have the conversations. Find the middle ground. It is there.
Being abroad and seeing other countries that have managed to successfully navigate their way through issues like gun control, maternity leave, healthcare, etc. is a reminder that it can be done. But if we continue to focus only on the problems and remain easily deflected from the real issues at hand, we are playing into the same puppeteering as those who followed the Emperor from the child’s tale.
As I wrapped up my interview, I recalled the time my son snuck out of bed during one of the debates, not realizing he was watching. When he inquired why “that man” was such a bully, it was a really profound moment for me as a mother and provided an opportunity to change the conversation for my children.
Now, more than ever, we all have an opportunity to look towards progress and rise above the destructive actions of unfit leaders.
Sometimes it just takes the honesty of a child to point out the obvious.
Cheers to a new week and focusing on solutions, not problems.