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The Blue Kimono by Chase William Merritt, 1888

" … we must believe in something much more than nothing to amount to anything worth anything in this world."

Nobody usefully argues for full transparency because nobody really wants to see my kimono flapping open from neck to knee. A useful level of Opacity seems necessary to maintain civility, though nobody walks around wearing an impenetrable brick wall or black box. We quite properly keep our kimonos firmly belted to maintain a certain dignity, though we well understand that as a result not everything's on display. Fantasy fills in what fabric conceals, and those fantasies reveal perhaps more than any flapping open kimono ever could. Hopes and wishes, fears and dreads complete the presentation, imagination always insisting upon ever more disclosure. A delicate balance maintains decency between cleavage and knees, and not every observer seems all that pleased whatever that balance might reveal.

Any relationship predicated upon a presumption of full disclosure seems doomed from its start because only a part of anyone's impressions ever become fit for any other human's consumption
. They're not conclusions yet, simply clues. Some unresolved mysteries better maintain civil stability. Some questions cannot be answered like some answers cannot be usefully questioned, we each maintain a private life however close another might feel. The line, fine or bold, between what's mine to disclose and yours to behold seems absolutely necessary to maintain. I keep my secrets as much for your benefit as mine.

Governments, too, must find some balance between revealing the magic sausage-grinding and sustaining a well-informed citizenry. We seem to have no compelling need to know many of the picky details juggled within smoke-filled rooms. Most of every negotiation was preliminary, alternate wardrobes tried on but never bought. The thought that each deliberation's every step needs an audience seems an insistence of naive ignorance. Refusing to disclose which suit of clothes was ultimately chosen, though, seems to step over that line to result in insufficient disclosure. Like I said, it's a balance, and fantasy fills in whatever cannot be included in the public report. Most will imagine scathing replacements for whatever they cannot clearly see through, so a measured transparency seems at least necessary.

Some leaders attempt to lead from within a big black box. They seem to want to produce an unlikely form of magic, perfect results from incomprehensible process. Their big black box offers no enticement to trust or to even make generous interpretations. It elicits deep distrust, however beneficent the resulting proclamations might seem, because that box demonstrates a clear lack of trust in the observers' judgement. The government that routinely does for eventually finds itself done for, for those on the receiving end want to at the very least pretend that they were involved in the deciding.

Our present leader mistakes a flapping kimono for full disclosure, decrying balance. He leaves far too little to the imagination while repeatedly producing unimaginable results by absolutely opaque means. He seems to manage by whim, which makes him appear immature and vindictive. He lies with even more impunity than he governs, carelessly choosing his targets as if only to confuse every issue. Nobody should trust anything he says, for he seems to believe in nothing at all. The final purpose for such Opacity seems to be wholesale larceny, getting away with absolute impunity. He manages nothing more than becoming an unending embarrassment. He has not proven to be a decent man.

Healing this wound might take some doing, for we cannot unsee what we've come to see, and some still firmly believe that any crudely flapping kimono constitutes true transparency. Restoring decency requires some judicious fantasy, like Our Founders exhibited when proclaiming to believe that every man was created equal, for we must believe in something much more than nothing to amount to anything worth anything in this world. We dare not devolve into becoming just another cynical nation, out for ourselves, for higher ideals than self-gratification exist in this world, and our world cannot long exist without deeply understanding this truth. Our flirtation proved uncouth, our self-centeredness, self-destructive. Our decency will be our only salvation.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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