Alexandra Petri

Washington, D.C.

 Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.  
Honors & Awards:
  • National Press Club Angele Gingras Award for Humor Writing 2016, Shorty Award 2016, Forbes 30 Under 30, Fifty Funniest People Right Now (Rolling Stone)
Books by Alexandra Petri:  

A Field Guide To Awkward Silences

Buy it from Amazon
Recent Articles

ALEXANDRA PETRI COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For Petri clients only)

By ALEXANDRA PETRI

WASHINGTON -- CHILDREN, THINK VERY CAREFULLY ABOUT YOUR NEXT MOVE.

I walk in the halls of power. I wield votes. I enter smoke-filled rooms to which you complain that you lack access, although, at the rate things are going with the climate, soon you will have access to smoke-filled rooms, too. Every room! Even outdoors!

But you seem, somehow, not to get it. You seem to think I am someone you might want to lecture and argue with and protest and even, perhaps, alienate.

I hope I do not have to say this more than once: I have nothing to lose. So think very carefully about what you will do next. I may not live to see the enormous wave that engulfs your coastal cities, but that does not mean I will not have caused that wave.

Think to yourself about the following sentence: "The congressman fought hard to protect the earth that would be occupied by future generations, generations for whom the congressman had nothing but respect because they had never appeared to bother the congressman when he was just trying to have a nice afternoon and not be asked frustrating questions."

That sounds like a sentence that makes sense!

Now think about the following alternative sentence: "Knowing that the very children who had stormed into his office to make a big scene would be inheriting whatever climate legacy the congressman left behind, the congressman ... "

Do you think that sentence ends well? I don't! And unlike myself, you will have to stick around to see whether I am right!

Yes, pick up your handmade signage and depart. That is wise of you, child! It shows sense. I will remember that when the day comes to vote on policy that can determine whether the temperature is going to climb by more or less than 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next several decades. Absolutely. It is just your stubbornness, no, your rudeness that has resulted in my continued inaction on this point. As for the votes I made when you were even younger, well, I anticipated this kind of behavior from you, based on the sounds you made on airplanes -- and as soon as you stop making your voice heard, you bet, I will behave differently.

Yes, go. Go quietly, please. You do not want me to be thinking, "I wish that child were somewhere unpleasantly hot." REMEMBER, I HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE IT SO.

I truly (BEG ITAL)could(END ITAL) be in favor of fixing climate change, you bet! If it weren't for your tantrums, I might have a vague, nebulous idea that it was something I was doing On Behalf of the Children, whom I conceived of as a kind of gauzy mixture of my grandchildren and particularly cute toddlers who periodically appear in commercials. These imaginary children do not cause scenes.

So stop confronting me instead with the reality of young people! I like preserving the world for them in theory, but when they actually appear, I find them annoying, and they are upset at me, and they do not make me inclined to combat climate change at all. I used to think, boy, I like children! Children are the one demographic that has never tried to lecture me on my policy choices. I WAS A FOOL.

Don't you remember that China exists? Why should we do anything that is within our power to do when we cannot control what China does? Wouldn't that make a fool out of us, really, to be seen making an effort to control the things we can control, when some things are beyond our control? Consider also that even if we were to do something -- and (BEG ITAL)even if (END ITAL) China were to do something -- a single volcano of sufficient size erupting would undo the somethings! Consider that meteors exist. It is possible, too, that alien life exists, is hostile and might strike (in vengeance for that Storm Area 51 thing, maybe) all life out of existence in an instant. I could look past that if you were more polite, though. Promise.

So think carefully about the people you are bothering with your activism. It just makes no sense. (I mean, the health care thing, even -- why, if your planet is so hopelessly befouled, would you ever try to (BEG ITAL)lengthen(END ITAL) the amount of time you spend on it?) I have no other conflicts on this issue than my frustration at hearing you, always demanding MORE! MORE BIRDS! MORE ACTION! MORE TIME!

If you are going to dare to ask for what I have taken for granted, at least be careful to ask in the right way. After all, I can make things very unpleasant for you. And if you doubt that, just watch what I will do next. Unless you stop making your voices heard.

Or maybe even if you don't.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

ALEXANDRA PETRI COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For Petri clients only)

By ALEXANDRA PETRI

(BEG ITAL)"Democrats say we have guns in America because of 'corruption.' No, we have guns because it's our God-given right enshrined in the Constitution." -- Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders(END ITAL)

Yes, this is true, and it is good that we talk about it. This is a fact about the American founding that has been suppressed for too long. Certainly all the firearms that sprout Hydra-like across the country were acquired by no mortal means, and it is important for us to describe exactly how they came about, so that we may better understand and appreciate them.

The year is not important. But it was a long time ago, at least 230 years.

The country possessed many wonders. There were waterfalls, rocks, rills, woods, templed hills. There were raccoons, small nervous bears that were forever washing their hands like tiny Lady Macbeths. There were armadillos. There was even syphilis and Christianity, both thoughtful gifts from Europe. But when one surveyed the country from above, something seemed to be missing. What was it?

Suddenly, thunder rumbled. In the hall in Philadelphia where they were gathered to write a Constitution, and also in Virginia where George Mason was crafting the Virginia Declaration of Rights (confusingly, these events were in different years, but theologians assure me this is possible), the delegates shuddered.

"BEHOLD," said a thundering voice from a cloud. (Madison had resumed taking his notes at this point, which is how we know this.) The heavens parted. An enormous hand stretched forth, holding a mysterious black object, long and pointed like a stick.

"I'M GIVING YOU THIS," the hand said. "A GIFT, FROM ME TO YOU, THAT NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE AWAY."

"What is it?" the delegates asked.

"JUST TAKE IT," the hand said. "DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT."

"What's it for?" the delegates asked.

"KILLING," the hand said. "INDISCRIMINATELY. CHILDREN, TEENAGERS, GRANDMOTHERS, PARENTS ON THEIR WAY TO PICK UP THEIR KIDS FROM SCHOOL. TODDLERS. I GUESS YOU COULD USE IT FOR HUNTING, BUT NOT IF YOU WERE PARTICULARLY GOOD AT HUNTING."

"Like a musket?" someone asked.

The voice laughed long and loud and rumblingly. "ONLY IN THE LOOSEST SENSE," the voice said. "FOR BEHOLD, THIS CAN FIRE 600 ROUNDS PER MINUTE."

"This seems like it could be useful in a war," Mason said, not unreasonably.

"I DON'T MEAN IN WAR," the voice said. "THAT GOES WITHOUT SAYING. I MEAN, IN PRIVATE HOMES AND ON CITY STREETS AND UNLOCKED IN CABINETS IN HOUSES WITH TODDLERS IN THEM, AND IN THE HANDS OF POLICE OFFICERS."

"Oh," the delegates said. "Uh, well."

"IT IS IMPORTANT TO ME THAT YOU HAVE THIS," the voice said.

"Is this for the well-regulated militia?" someone asked.

"NOT REALLY," the voice said. "DON'T GET DISTRACTED. IF ANYONE TRIES TO RESTRICT IT TO THAT, SAY NO. SAY I GAVE YOU THESE. SAY THEY'RE FROM ME AND THEY'D BETTER NOT TRY TO TAKE THEM."

"I have a slight question," Benjamin Franklin said.

"STOP ASKING QUESTIONS," the voice said. "AND IF ANYONE EVER SAYS, 'THERE ARE TOO MANY, THESE ARE TOO DANGEROUS, WE DON'T WANT THEM ANY MORE, THE MILITIA THING HAS REALLY WANED SO IT SEEMS LIKE MOSTLY THEY ARE USED TO CAUSE ACCIDENTS IN THE HOME, TO INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD THAT PEOPLE WHO WANT TO END THEIR LIVES WILL BE ABLE TO DO SO, AND TO DECREASE THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN AND CIVILIANS,' YOU MUST SAY NO, BECAUSE I TOLD YOU SO AND I AM PLEASED TO BEHOLD THIS GREAT WORK."

The clouds began to close. These objects began to rain from the sky in a great profusion. Large and small, shiny and dull. They fell onto the table until you could not see the Constitution underneath them.

The voice receded in a great rumbling.

"Wait! Do you think the electoral college is a good system?" Madison yelled after it. But there was no answer.

The objects lay there in a pile on the green felt-covered table. Nobody would touch them for a long time.

"How do we," one of the delegates started, then stopped. "Uh, how do we indicate all of that, in the Constitution?"

Madison sighed. "Let's just put in the militia thing," he said. "All of that may well happen, but I am not certain we should give it a head start."

Franklin sighed. "This is why I'm a deist."

That is as far as the notes go on the day when God gave us all this God-given right.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

ALEXANDRA PETRI COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For Petri clients only)

By ALEXANDRA PETRI

I have noticed you are not laughing.

I have noticed, indeed, as we near the anniversary of a wonderful confirmation of great innocence, as a new book and news story suggest there were more allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh that were never looked into properly, that you are taking this all very gravely indeed. You are going so far as to get up in arms over a little tweet that described a penis in someone's face as "harmless fun." You are acting as though something real could have been hurt. Could it be that you do not have a sense of fun?

Let me clarify. People (boys) are entitled to have fun. Could it be that you do not know what fun is?

Harmless fun is when nothing real is hurt: when two friends knock the head off a doll, say, or hit a baseball as hard as they can into the window of a house where no one lives, or when two friends have a really good time, throwing something around -- a toy or a Frisbee or maybe a frightened girl. Fun is when there is laughter, enough to etch itself into someone's hippocampus.

Fun is what I do to you. You can tell because I am laughing. (I have noticed that you are not laughing.) You must consider that this is all in good fun, good harmless fun, as popping a balloon or stealing someone's bag lunch or knocking over someone's drink or holding down a girl until she is terrified she cannot breathe. A cheerful and salutary incident in which nothing of value was harmed or lost, when no one who belongs or matters is startled or afraid. Fun can even be scary, as when you think that there are going to be consequences for an action, but then it turns out at the last minute that there won't.

So many things are fun, when you have the right perspective. Calling people funny names! Grabbing someone by the -- anywhere! Chanting! Telling someone to die, humorously and ironically! Anything can be fun if no one is hurt. (If you are hurt, you are no one.)

Fun is when no one is harmed, when no one real, no nice young fellows with promising careers who are allowed to say "just kidding" any time they want are endangered. Are you laughing yet? If you laugh hard enough, anything can be laughed off. Why do you insist on being hurt when being hurt is the one thing that will make you less real?

Take it. Take the joke. Take it. If you remember that this is harmless fun, then it does not matter whether it keeps happening, whether it happens to anyone. It does not even matter whether it happens to you, or to your family. It ceases to be something you wish to stop or from which you wish to protect others. It becomes something over which you can laugh and shake hands, or smile, and shake your head.

This lack of laughter on your part leads me to suspect you are a humorless killjoy, the type of person who is harmful and (BEG ITAL)not(END ITAL) fun! Harmful fun is when a deserving young lad fails to obtain a deserved position. Harmful fun is when a fledgling career is wounded! That is unthinkable, and a loud outcry is warranted.

So let us suppose there really was an incident. Even, perhaps, multiple incidents. Would it have been worth inquiring into? Hardly.

We can agree that, after all, these were just fun. Just good, harmless fun.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

About
Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.
Books
  • A Field Guide To Awkward Silences
Awards
  • National Press Club Angele Gingras Award for Humor Writing 2016, Shorty Award 2016, Forbes 30 Under 30, Fifty Funniest People Right Now (Rolling Stone)
Links