I once heard Garrison Keillor — famous public radio personality and writer of mostly-boring things for the hummus and pita set — riff on the central philosophical underpinning of the even-keeled Scandinavians of the upper midwest. The theory is that these lumbering squareheads maintain a certain equilibrium by greeting all news, good or bad, with the following mantra:
“It could be worse.”
Here’s a clip from an essay he wrote that sums it up:
Whatever bonehead things we’ve done, we have not yet put our tongue on the pump handle and let it freeze there, and this is a fact not to be overlooked. There are pump handles around, and in freezing weather they become lethal. You walk past them and they exert a powerful force on your body, particularly on your tongue. Imagine the misery of standing, tongue frozen to the iron, waiting for the firemen to come and pry you loose. In my darker hours, ever since I was 6 and went trotting off to Benson School, I have imagined that the pump handle would be my fate, but so far I have avoided it, and you too, my friend. Together, once again we hope to come through the cold season with our tongues intact, and if we do, then winter has no grip on us. It could be worse.
Anyway, I was trolling the Facebook statuses of my millions of adoring fans this morning, and it turns out some of them are displeased by the nation’s electoral decision last night. Reading their first reactions to the result is like taking a swan dive into a well of broken glass and menaced delusional fantasies about the man most of us chose to lead us out of this morass.
I sincerely don’t wish these people to suffer for their political choices. Despite the antagonism between the two sides during the campaign, I hope with all my heart that Barack Obama lives up to his pledge to be the president of all Americans — not just those of us who punched our chads in his favor.
But surely that sentiment alone will do little to quell the anger and frustration of those on the losing end of this election. In fact it may come across as patronizing or demeaning.
So the best I can offer my friends on the far side of the chasm is this:
It could be worse. And I have proof.
Your chosen candidate did not succeed, but at least you weren’t hit by a motherfucking rocket like this poor asshole: