The current political debate in the United States reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale about a vain emperor who was hoodwinked by swindlers into buying an imaginary suit supposedly made of the finest silks, explaining to him that it was invisible only to the stupid and those unfit for their positions.

The swindlers worked late into the night for many days weaving the imaginary suit on their empty loom. The emperor sent several of his advisers to check on the weavers’ progress who, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions, gave glowing reports of the incredible colors and patterns.

Wishing to show off his finery to the inhabitants of the city, he announced a procession of government leaders whom he would lead in his magnificent outfit. At last the day of the great procession arrived and, as the procession wound through the city streets, the thousands of spectators applauded and shouted their approval of the emperor’s suit, no one wanting to admit that they didn’t see anything for fear of being called a fool. Near the end of the parade route, a child whose mother had hoisted him on her shoulders so he could see, proclaimed loudly, “Mommy, he doesn’t have anything on.” The bystanders repeated the child’s words to those who couldn’t hear and before long the throng realized it was true.

Fast forward to COVID-19 and the phenomenon of “group think” where those who disagree with mask and vaccine mandates are called “stupid,” “unpatriotic,” “anti-science” and worse. We were told that wearing masks saves lives, that the Pfizer vaccine was 95 percent effective in protecting from infection and transmission. Now, in December 2021, our governor has reimposed an indoor mask mandate — the reason being the new omicron variant. One professional NBA team just announced they are reinstating their star player who is unvaccinated because so many of the other vaccinated players have experienced breakthrough COVID cases. Nevermind that from around the world, there have been relatively few deaths from omicron so far. Yet, Pfizer is working on a fourth jab, which has the potential for billions more in profits. Do Americans read and think for themselves or are they submissively following the mandates for fear of being thought of as stupid or unscientific?

Where is our objective media, the media that lavished praise on Gov. Cuomo of New York for his masterful handling of the pandemic, which forced convalescent facilities to take COVID patients discharged from hospitals and then infected others, resulting in the deaths of thousands; the same media that is now failing to report that currently Florida has the lowest death rate from COVID of any state in the nation, all of this without mask and vaccine mandates, lockdowns, school closings, etc.? Is there something to be learned from this?

Maybe you don’t think mask mandates are any big deal: “Just wear them and get on with life you say.” I couldn’t agree more. But one thing leads to another. Recognizing the lust for power and riches, which is an integral part of human nature, there is a certain percentage of people in positions of power who, seeing the passive acceptance by so many Americans of arbitrary mandates such as social distancing of 6 feet (when scientific studies indicate 13 feet is needed to be effective), will be encouraged to push for more mandates and laws forcing people to comply with what they deem necessary.

There is already a powerful movement on many college campuses aimed at eliminating “hate speech.” Hate speech is often defined as anything in opposition to the beliefs of the powers that be regarding homosexuality, transgenderism, critical race theory, etc. These efforts to stifle one’s right to freely express their opinion strikes at the heart of American democracy. Fellow frogs, the temperature of the water is gradually rising; it’s time to investigate and think for ourselves. Jump out of the pot before we’re cooked.

Miguel Nidever is a Spanish medical interpreter who has lived in Bakersfield since 1985.

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