Once upon a time, there was an emperor in a country which used to be one of the greatest in the world. In the year 2016 AD, the emperor decided to run in the big race that was held to decide who would be the leader of that nation for the next four years. People across the world laughed at his hubris for he was no statesman. On the contrary, he was known only for his ostentatious wealth, his numerous marriages, extra-marital dalliances, and for being on a reality TV show where he revelled in being able to shout â€œYouâ€™re firedâ€ to all but one of the participants.
The country was divided into blue and red. Some people liked what the colour blue stood for and others the colour red. At the time, his opponent was a woman who was the champion of the colour blue. He chose to represent red. The â€œman-child,â€ as he was often dubbed, was intimidated by his rival, and tried to vilify her and called her a â€œnasty woman.â€
To try and distract the voters of the race and deflect their scrutiny from his inadequacy, he directed attention to emails she sent from her private server rather than the secure one she was supposed to use. It was undoubtedly remiss of her to do so but it was determined that no crime had been committed. Though the woman won the majority of total votes cast, the emperor won the race due to a system called the electorate college and was ultimately elected the leader of the country.
Even when he was installed in the white palace, he would sometimes forget that he was no longer in his TV show and woe betide anyone if they disagreed with him as he would immediately discharge them of their duties. (Revolving doors would have helped the constant flow of staff on their way in or out of the imposing pillared edifice). He also liked to call reports â€œfake newsâ€ if they did not portray him in the best light and would frequently stamp his foot and refer to those writing them or asking valid questions as â€œnastyâ€ and â€œterribleâ€ people.
He was also known to torture his detractors with a barrage of falsehoods and nonsensical statements and even coined words such as â€œcovfefeâ€ on the social media platform known as Twitter, though to this day no one knows what covfefe means. He also had a penchant for using the words â€œgreatâ€ and â€œyuge.â€
The rest of the world and many of the subjects of the great nation itself were aghast at how the emperor could have won (electoral college aside). But those who voted for him were people who believed he was going to restore their jobs taken away by â€œforeigners,â€ make them feel heard, make the country great again. His followers hung onto every word and every lie he spewed. They did not realize that he was not one of them.
The emperor saw the big divide within his country and decided to create an even bigger rift between the people by making it acceptable to discriminate, intimidate, or insult people from another race, religion, colour, and ethnicity.
But it was as if he was protected by a magic spell whereby the same accusations that would have brought about the downfall of any other leader, slid off him like water off a duckâ€™s back. Not even being impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress deterred the emperor, with his cronies and sycophants in the Senate acquitting him without calling any witnesses or subpoenaing documents.
When the world was brought to its knees by a pandemic -- Covid-19, the emperor refused to acknowledge the magnitude of the global crisis. He shrugged it off with his usual insouciance saying: â€œWe have it totally under control.â€ Tragically, his inability to take the virus seriously or take adequate precautions or action resulted in the deaths of over 230,000 people.
For four years, sexism, racism, nationalism, homophobia, xenophobia all flourished in his land where hate began to flow freely. He lied so much the lines between reality and fantasy began to blur for him and his supporters.
The time for the big race came about again in the year 2020 AD and the emperor decided to run for a second term. His opponent this time -- despite being another elderly white man who had held office previously -- gave the people hope that the emperor would finally be dethroned. The race was so close it was hard to tell who would win and the emperor was enraged by the thought of losing so he accused the other side of trying to steal votes and cheating despite having no proof.
The Roman Emperor Nero comes to mind. Wishing to enter the Olympics he was said to have bribed his way in. He entered the chariot race with ten horses rather than the four that other contestants were allowed. Not being an athlete and physically unfit, he did not fare well and lost control of his horses mid-race. Despite injuring himself and not even completing the race, he proclaimed himself the winner. Our emperor also proclaimed himself the victor before the counting was complete.
But regardless of who the winner of the race is, even if it is the elderly gentleman, what we have learned is that almost half of the voters did not care that their emperor lacked moral integrity or that he believed rules did not apply to him. They did not care that he was a tax evader despite his vast fiinancial resources or was a climate change denier nor that he was an advocate of white supremacy.
Not even the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of people had lost their lives due to his mismanagement of the crisis deterred them. Or maybe the people of the country were so deeply entrenched in their love of the colours red and blue, they forgot that a united country was more important than one divided. Even though the race is over, I fear we have not heard the last of the emperor.
Nadia Kabir Barb is a writer, journalist, and author of the short story collection Truth or Dare.