The Emperor’s New Clothes

Most of us know Hans Christian Andersen’s wonderful story The Emperor’s New Clothes.  We chuckle visualizing the Emperor with great fanfare proudly strutting through the streets totally naked, convinced that he’s wearing the most magnificent finery ever made.  We find it hard to imagine that he was persuaded that the clothes actually existed.  

I can’t help feeling, however, that there’s a little bit of the Emperor in all of us.   

On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into force with very similar fanfare.  Politicians raved about it and talked about NAFTA like the tailors talked about the Emperor’s new clothes.  Travelling between Canada and the US, I have yet to experience free trade.  Declarations, limits, duties and taxes remain.  If free trade, why duty free shops? 

When I've looked for explanations, I'm told, well, it only applies to certain things. Automobiles and automobile parts are given as examples.  Then why are cars brought across the border so much more expensive?      

Despite evidence to the contrary, people talk about free trade as though it were a total given.  Despite evidence to the contrary, the Emperor carried on as though he wore the finest of outfits.  Who are we to make fun of the Emperor?  We’ve given him a bum rap.

For the successful cross-border shopper who is faced with substantial duties it can be a bittersweet experience, as it must have been for the Emperor to discover the truth about his clothes.  

I wrote the following tune, “Bittersweet,” over 15 years ago.  The arrangement is by David Nelson and the tune features Demo Cates on saxophone.  Among other successes, Demo later went on to play the lead role in the Broadway play, The Lion King.  My tune, of course, had nothing to do with that, but to those of you who have been featured in my music, please stick with me.  I really appreciate your contribution and you never know what good things might come your way.