Are We Living in a Fairy Tale? Time to Close the Book.


Leslie Grossman, Faculty Director, Executive Women’s Leadership, The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership

It’s been said by countless experts, that contrary to what many may believe, fairy tales are not good for kids.  Nor are they good for adults.  Fairy tales are stories that originally were not based on truth. Or were they? Today, many believe that we are living in a fairytale which has become our reality.  In addition, to the skewed stories we have been told by the leader of our country for the last 4 years, we are now being told by President Trump, repeatedly both directly and indirectly, that our election process is fraudulent. No matter what your political party, you should be concerned about voter fraud, foreign intervention and voter suppression. However, it is his most recent comments which are causing a flashing yellow light.

In response to a question, the president complained about mail-in ballots and said: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful…”. He paused and then added,” there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.  “Get rid of the ballots.”  What does he mean? “With no ballots to be counted, and mail-in ballots to be excluded, we are left with a form of government America did not sign up for  – a monarchy or autocracy. Citizens, especially those who are not happy with the leadership at the top,  are growing increasingly alarmed as Mr. Trump repeatedly questions the integrity of the vote and suggests that he might not accept the results if he loses.

Many of us are having nightmares night and day from a threat to the peaceful transfer of power.  Which brings me back to two disturbing fairy tales – The Emperor’s New Clothes and the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Both kept me up at night when I was a child, and now they come too close to today’s situation to allow me a good night’s sleep.   

In The Emperor’s New Clothes, the emperor is tricked into believing that only true believers can see his fine suit created by swindlers pretending to be weavers, who deliver a suit of ‘nothing’. Even the emperor’s cabinet go along with this falsehood, not wanting to disagree with what the emperor sees. The emperor parades down the street totally naked with all the townspeople afraid to say the truth.  Finally, a young child blurts out the truth. At the end of the tale everyone admits that they all have been tricked.

George Cappannelli, author and global consultant, compared Trump to the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes in January, 2017, the  month Trump was inaugurated.  Cappannelli wrote, The Emperor’s New Clothes  “…warns us of the dangers of vanity and duplicity and exposes the frailties of even so-called reasonable people when swindlers appear and play upon our pain and confusion by convincing us that we are in danger of losing something we think we are entitled to or we become afraid that we might be judged by others to be stupid or poorly informed.  As a result, we often do just want the swindlers want.  We deny reality and turn away from what is in plain sight.”

In the Pied Piper of Hamlin, one version has the Pied Piper leading the rats which were infesting the city into the river to drown. After ridding the city of rats, he entices the children to follow him with his beautiful music, leading them to the river to drown as well. According to Gini Graham Scott, business author and consultant,  in a blog post appearing in the Huffington Post on March, 2016, “Trump’s followers are a little like these children who hear the pipes playing and follow blindly, mesmerized by the sound of the music because the piper plays so well. So where is the townsperson that will take away the piper’s pipes so no one else will follow” and drown?

Will the villagers speak up and stop the Pied Piper? Will the villagers see that the wannabe ‘emperor’ believes anyone that flatters him and listens to no one who is truly wise.  

The time has come to end the fairy tale leadership of our country and go for leaders with experience, empathy, focus, transparency, intelligence and a willingness to listen and collaborate to save our world.  Speak up. Protect the Vote.  Protect American democracy. 

About the Author: Leslie Grossman’s personal vision is a world where there is gender equity at the highest leadership roles of all organizations. As an executive leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker and workshop leader, Leslie devotes all her work to achieving this purpose.  Leslie created and leads the Executive Women’s Leadership Program as Faculty Director and Senior Fellow at The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. 

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