If you see things that really are not there, are you losing it? Maybe not. Maybe the ones who put the non-existent things there for you to see are to blame.

Recently, this surrealistic phenomenon of unreal “thereness” appeared in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. This shore town had been devastated by Superstorm Sandy last October, shutting down its boardwalk shops and rides. But in mid-May, England’s Prince Harry came to Jersey for a royal visit, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie led him to the town’s boardwalk to highlight the people’s resilient spirit and determination to rebuild.

The shops and rides remained closed, yet, bizarrely, the prince saw bustling enterprises and kids having fun. Did his royal eyes deceive him? No, Christie did.

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stiatska/Flickr

The governor staged a business-as-usual visual for the visitor. Spiffed-up clam bars and hot dog stands were staffed with people who appeared to be preparing and serving food, but nothing was actually being cooked. Also, children were brought in to play darts, wiffleball, and other games at booths that had been opened, staffed, and stocked with prizes — just for Harry’s quick visit.

Even the twisted skeleton of the town’s iconic roller coaster, which had been knocked into the ocean by the raging storm, still sat in the waves. They left it there as a prop to give the prince a sense of the fury the town had suffered.

As he gazed at it for a few moments, a demolition crew was positioned out of sight, ready to dismantle it as soon as the governor and the prince departed.

A 7-year-old-girl, who got to talk with Harry at a game booth, later asked a reporter an impertinent question: “Is he a real-life prince?” She said she doubted it, for he had no cape or sword. But, yes, the prince was absolutely real — unlike the unreal images he saw on the boardwalk.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org

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