Beloved fictional character Leslie Knope has written to America from beyond the grave of television cancellation to counsel the country in wake of Donald Trump’s victory.
Knope, as played by Amy Poehler, was an optimistic, go-getter who had big dreams and grand plans for her small Indiana community and the world at large.
The character was a faithful and tireless public servant who had nothing but the highest respect for the women who had come before her in politics, particularly Hillary Clinton.
“That’s why people respect Hillary Clinton so much,” Knope’s character memorably said in a Season 2 episode. “No one takes a punch like her.
“She’s the strongest, smartest punching bag in the world.”
Now, after Clinton’s stunning defeat in the presidential election, Knope wrote an open letter to America on how to move forward if, like her, you are struggling with how to move forward. (And by “wrote,” we mean one of the “Parks and Recreation” scribes who penned the letter.)
In it, Knope recalls an experience from her childhood where she was taught a social studies lesson by a teacher who had the classroom vote on two candidates, a flashy jaguar and a bookish tortoise.
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.”
Knope was understandably heartbroken by the results and sought consolation from her teacher.
“Greenie was the better candidate,” I said. “Greenie should have won.”
“I suppose that was the point of the lesson,” I said.
“Oh, no,” she said. “The point of the lesson is: People are unpredictable, and democracy is insane.”
But Knope had a greater point than the erratic and unpredictable nature of democracy, a message of hope for those who feel as though the election has left them in unfamiliar territory.
I acknowledge that Donald Trump is the president. I understand, intellectually, that he won the election. But I do not accept that our country has descended into the hatred-swirled slop pile that he lives in. I reject out of hand the notion that we have thrown up our hands and succumbed to racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and crypto-fascism. I do not accept that. I reject that. I fight that. Today, and tomorrow, and every day until the next election, I reject and fight that story.
Even more than that, Knope had a message for young girls disappointed that they did not awake Wednesday morning to the first female president they had hoped for.
Hi, girls. On behalf of the grown-ups of America who care about you and your futures, I am awfully sorry about how miserably we screwed this up. We elected a giant farting T. rex who does not like you, or care about you, or think about you, unless he is scanning your bodies with his creepy T. rex eyes or trying to physically grab you like a toy his daddy got him (or would have, if his daddy had loved him). (Sorry, that was a low blow.) (Actually, not sorry, I’m pissed, and I’m on a roll, so zip it, superego!)
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.
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.
Also included in Knope’s message was a request that, if people have the means, they should make a donation to the ACLU, the International Rescue Committee or a charity of their choice.