For more than a quarter-century, the Emperor Awards have spotlighted achievements in the education world. The emperor, you’ll remember, proudly purchases nonexistent clothing that he’s told only stupid people can’t see. His loyal subjects, also reluctant to appear stupid, tell him how regal he looks in his underwear. Our awards likewise salute award recipients and anyone who applauds their accomplishments.
This year, our pursuit of the absurd has led us to American politics. However, while most of the follies that plague public education are well-intentioned, the same cannot always be said about the words and deeds of our spotlighted politicians. The academy leaves judging specific recipients’ intentions to you, our readers.
We begin by paying tribute to an entirely fictional interpretation of the Constitution proffered by Sidney Powell, former-President Trump’s former attorney. Speaking at a QAnon conference, Ms. Powell assured the gathered MAGA supporters that Donald Trump “can simply be reinstated” as president. According to Powell, the first step is to set a new inauguration day. Then “Biden is told to move out of the White House,” following which Trump moves in again.
While this may have passed for a correct answer at Trump University Law School, it in no way resembles anything James Madison ever said and contradicts several paragraphs he did include in the Constitution. Ms. Powell demonstrated similar legal prowess when she defended herself against a defamation lawsuit by arguing simultaneously that she believes what she says about rigged voting machines and that “no reasonable person” could take her statements seriously. For boldly playing fast and loose with the Constitution and publicly declaring herself unreasonable, the Emperors Academy presents its Giuliani Prize for Legal Theatrics.
We move next to Congressman Louis Gohmert’s suggestion that the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management should consider fighting climate change by altering the orbit of the Earth or the moon. While the congressman’s proposal was greeted with skepticism, the academy’s research team has confirmed that, in 1967, Issue 140 of Superboy, the titular character successfully moved an entire galaxy by hooking all its planets together with an enormous chain. For Representative Gohmert’s willingness to follow scientific truth wherever it may lead as long as it doesn’t lead somewhere that involves carbon, he takes home the prestigious Flat Earth Award.
Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders found himself at the center of a “woke” whirlwind when he brazenly wore a parka and mittens to Joe Biden’s inauguration. A San Francisco Chronicle op-ed piece promptly castigated him as an example of “white privilege, male privilege and class privilege” for showing up in a “puffy jacket and huge mittens.” The essay’s author, a high school teacher, contended that Bernie’s wardrobe “manifests privilege” in ways her “students could see and feel.” Her zeal for social justice and eye for outerwear earns her this year’s Distinguished Priorities Cross.
The 2021 David Pecker Truth in Journalism Trophy salutes all those internet sources that added to the world’s supply of incendiary disinformation. A special nod goes to the extravagantly ridiculous lie that Mother Teresa was Dr. Fauci’s mother and a child trafficker in her spare time.
On the COVID front. the academy recognizes a Tennessee pastor for preaching that the pandemic is “fake,” that officials have “manipulated” the death count, and that the vaccine is a “dangerous scam” made of “aborted fetal tissue.” He also proclaimed that the delta variant doesn’t exist, condemned other pastors and churches for heeding public health mandates, derided emergency measures as “Democrat games,” and echoing the language of QAnon, denounced Joe Biden as “a sex-trafficking, demon-possessed mongrel.”
Most notable, however, was the pastor’s explicit threat from the pulpit that if “you start showing up (with) all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave.” For his stunningly non-evangelical approach to evangelism, the academy presents its Jim Bakker Ceremonial Basket (loaves and fishes not included).
Two worthy recipients share the John Dillinger National Security Medallion. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, having likened a House mask mandate to the Holocaust, is now encouraging Southerners to exercise their Second Amendment rights when they greet door-to-door vaccination outreach workers. Quipped Ms. Greene, “They may not like the welcome they get.” Her response to the surge in COVID hospitalizations and deaths was equally sunny. After alleging that only hospital waiting rooms were crowded, not ERs and ICUs, she reminded the nation that “we’re human, we can’t live forever.”
Our second Dillinger recipient, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, is also fond of firearms jokes. When presented an AR-15 at a church rally, the general responded mischievously, “Maybe I’ll find somebody in Washington, D.C.” He also enjoys suggesting that other people use guns in the nation’s capital, most recently by stating that a military coup like the one that overthrew Myanmar’s elected government “should happen here.” The general subsequently denied that he’d said what he’s clearly saying on the video recording of him saying it.
Competition for the George Orwell Creative Use of Language Award is always fierce. This year’s runner-up is the increasingly popular phrase “in real time,” a three-word expression that means “live,” as in “In real time, from New York, it’s Saturday Night.”
This year’s language award, however, goes to progressives for replacing the word “mothers” with the “gender-ambiguous” term “birthing people” in the current Health and Human Services budget proposal. Proponents contend that “birthing people” is “more inclusive,” especially for Americans whose “gender identities” don’t “apply to female and male.” Critics counter that the new term “could be offensive to some moms.” While HHS has surely earned its Orwell, the academy has determined that both sides in the debate deserve 2021’s Order of the Tempest in a Teacup.
The academy wishes to emphasize that this is not a complete listing of Emperor honorees. The list includes Americans who applaud their state’s low vaccination rate, who cheer threats of insurrection and military coups, who laugh at jokes about assassination. It includes those whose silence makes them complicit.
Each of us should check the list to see if we’re on it.
Even Poor Elijah and me.
Peter Berger has taught English and history for 30 years. Poor Elijah would be pleased to answer letters addressed to him in care of the editor.