It’s safe to say many of us are still reeling in a fugue state of uncertainty and upset. But as we begin to shake off the torpor of grief, the next step is seeking out voices who can help outline a path forward. To that end, Vox published an essay today by Parks And Recreation’s Leslie Knope, who came out of retirement to share her thoughts about America’s next president. She compares Tuesday’s election to an experience she had as a young, civics-minded grade schooler participating in a mock class election:
The 17 students in our class were introduced to two fictional candidates: a smart if slightly bookish-looking cartoon tortoise named Greenie, and a cool-looking jaguar named Speedy. Rick Dissellio read a speech from Speedy, in which he promised that, if elected, he would end school early, have extra recess, and provide endless lunches of chocolate pizzandy (a local Pawnee delicacy at the time: deep fried pizza where the crust was candy bars). Then I read a speech from Greenie, who promised to go slow and steady, think about the problems of our school, and try her best to solve them in a way that would benefit the most people. Then Mrs. Kolphner had us vote on who should be class president.
I think you know where this is going.
Except you don’t, because before we voted, Greg Laresque asked if he could nominate a third candidate, and Mrs. Kolphner said “Sure! The essence of democracy is that everyone—” and Greg cut her off and said, “I nominate a T. rex named Dr. Farts who wears sunglasses and plays the saxophone, and his plan is to fart as much as possible and eat all the teachers,” and everyone laughed, and before Mrs. Kolphner could blink, Dr. Farts the T. rex had been elected president of Pawnee Elementary School in a 1984 Reagan-esque landslide, with my one vote for Greenie the Tortoise playing the role of “Minnesota.”
The letter—which Vox notes was actually written by one of the site’s writers—is surprisingly comforting, coming from a fictional character who left the airwaves a year and a half ago. In funny, sad prose, “Knope” works toward a legitimately important point:
Our president-elect is everything you should abhor and fear in a male role model. He has spent his life telling you, and girls and women like you, that your lives are valueless except as sexual objects. He has demeaned you, and belittled you, and put you in a little box to be looked at and not heard. It is your job, and the job of girls and women like you, to bust out.
You are going to run this country, and this world, very soon. So you will not listen to this man, or the 75-year-old, doughy-faced, gray-haired nightmare men like him, when they try to tell you where to stand or how to behave or what you can and cannot do with your own bodies, or what you should or should not think with your own minds. You will not be cowed or discouraged by his stream of retrogressive babble. You won’t have time to be cowed, because you will be too busy working and learning and communing with other girls and women like you. And when the time comes, you will effortlessly flick away his miserable, petty, misogynistic worldview like a fly on your picnic potato salad.
The essay captures what’s best about the character of Leslie Knope. It’s optimistic without being naïve. Funny, but humanistic. And as we all struggle to figure out just what we’re going to do about our own Dr. Farts, it provides hope. It’s understandable if you’ve been hitting that bottle of Jean-Ralphio sparkling wine pretty hard the last few days, but sometime soon we’ll need to put it down, sober up with some waffles, and remember:
He is the present, sadly, but he is not the future. You are the future. Your strength is a million times his. Your power is a billion times his. We will acknowledge this result, but we will not accept it. We will overcome it, and we will defeat it.
Now find your team, and get to work.
You can read the entire essay on Vox.