Commentary, Humor

I Am The Kraken, And I Would Very Much Like To Go Home Now

I was told that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the most recent case involving the election. I have very little idea who or what the Supreme Court actually is, or why they were involved in all of this, or what an election actually is, to be honest with you. I would like to go back to the North Sea now.

I was asked to come here by some very nice people who told me that they needed my help. Most of my encounters with people over the last thousand years have been very negative, and have involved people on boats with long pointy spears. There have been a few nice and helpful zoologists and oceanographers over the years, but most of my interactions with people have been negative. I figured that this was a chance to do something positive, maybe rehabilitate my image somewhat.

When I was approached by the President’s legal team, I have to confess I was a little apprehensive at first. They told me that they had a strong case, based on statistical analysis and hard evidence of voter fraud. They said that my participation was important to protect the democratic process. I have friends in Iceland, and I know they have democracy there, but I didn’t know a lot about it. I figured that it was a great opportunity to learn. I was right about that, but not in the way I thought.

As a large underwater sea creature of high northern latitudes, I had not been paying very close attention to the Presidential election in your country. The only thing I really understand about elections is that someone wins and someone loses. It’s like that when I take on a school of plankton, although I always win. And the President was supposed to win, but someone took his plankton away from him and he was unhappy. Well, I understood that part, at least.

So I was told that I would be unleashed, and that once I was unleashed, the President would win. And it sounded like so much fun that I didn’t ask many questions that in retrospect I probably should have asked. For one thing, nobody told me that I would get unleashed in Atlanta. I have nothing personal against Atlanta, but I wish someone had told me that it was very far from the sea. I have spent all of my life in the cold waters of the far North, and Atlanta was far too warm and dry for my tastes. But everyone on the legal team said that what I was doing was very important, and that me being unleashed was the best for everyone. I still don’t know what being “unleashed” means; I’ve never been leashed in my life. But everyone said that it sounded cool.

I don’t want to sound impatient, but if all of this is really over, I would like to go home now.

Anyway, so I was told I was being unleashed in Georgia, and then in Michigan, and Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. But every single time, the legal team kept losing. Nobody would tell me why. They’d say that I was doing a great job just being myself. Which didn’t make any sense to me. All I can be is myself; I’m never going to be a lawyer or handle a case in court.

It took me a long time to realize it, but I finally came to understand that all that the lawyers were doing with me was to use me to scare people. I didn’t like that at all. I honestly don’t want to scare people. I just want to go back to the Norwegian coast and dive into the inky blackness of the deep and feast on plankton and shrimp. Sure, every year or two I will sink an unlucky fishing trawler, but it’s usually because they sneak up on me and surprise me. It’s not something I set out to do. I know I have a scary reputation; that’s why I got involved in the first place, to show people that krakens aren’t really that scary. We just want to be left alone.

It’s important to me that people realize that I wasn’t ever trying to scare them. I was told the President was in trouble and I could help him. I mean, I never got to meet him because he was always golfing, but I thought I was doing the right thing.

I still don’t understand what I was supposed to be doing, or why it was important, or what a President even does. It’s all very confusing. I am sorry I got mixed up in this, and I would like very much to find a nice quiet fjord and sink to the bottom of it and contemplate things for a while.

I wish your country good luck with its new President and hope that his administration practices pro-kraken policies. Other than that, I’m through with public life and would very much like to go home now.


The Hallelujah Effect

There is a scene in the Captain Underpants movie…

All right. First, let me get this out of the way. I only went to see the Captain Underpants movie because my kids love the books and were dying to see the movie. It is a movie that is (by design) without the slightest appeal to parents, and is only useful for this conversation because of, as I said, this one scene.

So in the Captain Underpants movie, the two elementary-school jokesters that are the heroes of the movie find out a salient fact about their sadistic science teacher. His name is “Professor Poopypants.”

And once they find out this information, a heavenly light shines on them, and the strains of Handel’s Messiah plays, and the two heroes warble the “Hallelujah Chorus,” because they have just been handed the ultimate weapon to use against their tormentors.

What I am calling for the purposes of this essay “The Hallelujah Effect” is essentially a combination of surprise and shock crossed with schadenfreude, the invaluable German word for the joy that one feels at another’s misfortune. It is that moment when your view of the world — whatever view that is, colored by whatever political biases that you have — is vindicated in some alarming way — particularly one that makes your political opponents look bad.

Most people, I expect, have experienced the Hallelujah Effect at one time or another. If you are a Democrat, you may have felt it when the news came out that an intolerant Republican Senator had been caught, literally, with his pants down in an airport bathroom trying to solicit anonymous sex from another man. If you are a Republican, you may have felt it when the news came out about Hillary Clinton’s clandestine e-mail server. The opportunities for the Hallelujah Effect seem to have expanded in recent years — and thanks to the rise of social media, each of us now has a greatly enhanced ability to share our feelings with the rest of the world when the Hallelujah Effect strikes.

And that is almost always a mistake.

A caveat, first. I believe absolutely in the right of free speech. You are of course free to say whatever you like about whatever you like. You are free to engage in horrible forms of speech, like, oh, let’s say, making the sequel to the Captain Underpants movie. I am not going to stop you. But tweeting or Facebooking or commenting on matters political while you are experiencing the Hallelujah Effect is not a good idea, and I hope to dissuade you from doing so, for three reasons.

First, whatever is going on is most assuredly not about you. This is especially true if the event that triggers the Hallelujah Effect is a tragedy. To use the all-too-familiar example of terrorism, when someone detonates a suicide vest at a concert, slaughtering young concertgoers, the issue of whether the terrorist shouted the name of Allah before his dastardly act is not perhaps the most pressing issue. And of course, the terrorist did turn out to be an Islamist, and that may very well validate whatever points out want to make about Islam, or immigration, or radicalization or what have you. But at the moment, what happens in Manchester, or London, or Boston is not about you. You may very well have a perfectly valid opinion that deserves a wider audience. Shut up anyway.

Secondly, you have to realize that the Hallelujah Effect is very often an illusion. If it turns out that the actual facts (as opposed to the reported facts) are different than what you supposed, openly celebrating the Hallelujah Effect in public may prove to be an utter embarrassment. This can occur in spectacular ways, such as the liberal mavens who managed to convince themselves that a Tea Party activist was behind the Arizona shooting that severely injured Representative Giffords, when the actual shooter had no political leanings to speak of. Davy Crockett famously said, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.” During Hallelujah Effect moments, the urge to go ahead rather to be sure that one is right can be overwhelming. It is wise to resist it.

Finally, if your purpose is to convince someone else on the other side of the issue that he or she is wrong, well, good luck with that. There is a point to be made, I think, that the increased use of inflammatory and incendiary political rhetoric on the left may have inspired the Alexandria shooter. But even if that was definitely, provably the case (which it is not), pointing this out will not convince even one person on the left that they should change their behaviors. Similarly, I think there is a point to be made that perhaps more could be done to identify potential mass shooters and decrease their ability to obtain deadly weapons. But do you think making that point will change the opinions of any National Rifle Association die-hard? It will not.

This is depressing. Life is depressing — as P.J. O’Rourke reminds us, more depressing than anything except the known alternative. The only corrective that I can suggest is seeking one’s Hallelujah Moments in areas outside of politics.


List: Job Openings in Bernie Sanders Administration (Full-Time, with Benefits)

  • Secretary of Organic Agriculture
  • Undersecretary of Organic Dairy Production
  • Assistant Undersecretary for Deciding What the New Ben & Jerry’s Flavor is Going to Be
  • Secretary for Altered States
  • Director, Office of Personnel Diversity
  • Internal Revenue Service, Assistant Commissioner for Taxing the Living Crap out of the Koch Brothers
  • Secretary for Bullying
  • Chief Undersecretary for Explaining that the Secretary of Bullying is There to Prevent Bullying and Not There to Bully People, Okay
  • Special Assistant to the President for Getting Someone in Washington to Make Bagels as Good as You Can Get In New York City
  • Undersecretary of State for Republican Migration to Canada
  • Surgeon General
  • Herbalist General
  • Aromatherapist General
  • Herbal Aromatherapist General
  • Assistant Director, Office of Personnel Diversity for Hiring Someone Other Than White Oberlin Graduates
  • Youth Outreach Officer
  • Assistant Youth Outreach Officer, Division of Student Loan Forgiveness
  • Deputy Youth Outreach Officer, Division of Explaining that the Student Loan Forgiveness Bill is Tied Up in Committee
  • Assistant Deputy Youth Outreach Officer, Sub-Department of Explaining that “Tied Up” is a Metaphor
  • Deputy Assistant Director for Doing Something About All These Resumes From White Oberlin Graduates
  • Director, Office of Phish, Game and Wild Life