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 the essay collections "Nothing Is Wrong And Here Is Why" and "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)
Recent Articles


Advance for release Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, and thereafter

(For Petri clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Alexandra Petri

WASHINGTON -- Good morning, class! Welcome to Patriotic Education! We are going to learn only the things about America that are worth knowing, then stop. If we have any spare time before the AP exam, we will spend it in the singing of patriotic songs.

American history did not start in 1789; it did not even start in 1492; and it CERTAINLY did not start in 1619. The year 1619 is meaningless! Please efface it from your memory. America started 6,000 years ago (when the Earth was created) as an idea in the mind of God. God was very proud of himself for having such a good idea. He celebrated by hitting some dinosaurs with a rock and then making their bones appear much older than they were.

The country officially kicked off in 1775 (remember, subtract one, since the year 1619 no longer exists!), when a group of heroic men sent a letter to the manager of the establishment where they were, complaining about being charged too much for tea.

These men were perfect in every way. Even James Madison was two feet taller than he actually was. George Washington was the best of them, and he never lied, and all of his teeth were his own. He did not purchase nine teeth from enslaved people because there was no such thing as enslaved people or the number nine (it refused to leave the date 1619, so we got rid of it to show it we were not playing around). These giants easily defeated the British in the Revolutionary War without having to perform any raps whatsoever, no matter what your other history teachers try to tell you.

From then on, it was smooth sailing. Washington served two terms, which we used to think was the perfect number of terms to serve, but actually it might be okay to serve for life. In 1812, the British came back over to perform some much-needed remodeling on the White House, then left again.

Four score and five years after the founding, 11 states suddenly came up with a much better flag they thought we should use instead, and so they decided they had to leave the nation immediately. There was no other reason as far as we know, but we have not looked very hard. Some people still think they were right about the flag; you can see it today being flown as many places as possible, even on barns in states that won the war to take it down.

Abraham Lincoln was the president then, and he did something that was very important to do, and especially at that time, but not quite as much as Donald Trump. Then he sadly lost his life to an assassin's bullet. This was bittersweet because he knew, as all patriots do, that Second Amendment rights are the most important ones to exercise. Some amendments were passed after the war, including one ending slavery, which was weird because it, again, did not exist in the first place - hence why Mississippi only got around to ratifying the amendment in 2013.

America continued to be wonderful, as it never wasn't, until World War I, in which it did a great job under the keen eye of Woodrow Wilson, a man about whom no one need ever be ashamed. Then we had a Depression, which was Great and which we are trying to see if we can have again. Then we entered World War II, the much-awaited sequel to World War I, where we did everything right except electing Franklin D. Roosevelt, who tried his best to fill this nation with socialism. After winning the war, we continued to win, and we have not stopped winning to this day.

And . . . I guess that pretty much does it! Nothing further to tell. We have not had to work slowly and at great cost to realize the beautiful dream of the Founders, an ideal that millions of people never experienced but believed was worth fighting for. Flawed people have not worked steadily to make a world better than the one they lived in. It's just a constant progress from strength to even stronger strength!

Finally, in 2016 (such an important year that we added one back to the date), we at last became great again, which we never weren't. And then - would you look at the time! Let's sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee"!

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Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.


Advance for release Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, and thereafter

(For Petri clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Alexandra Petri

WASHINGTON -- It was a grim September day.

In the world where most Americans lived, wildfires were ravaging the Western part of the country, leaving death and devastation in their wake. The president was Donald Trump, a man who had presided over thousands upon thousands of deaths from COVID-19, who had spent months on the campaign trail calling for his opponent to be locked up and who was continuing to undermine the legitimacy of the upcoming election. His appointees were speaking openly about taking up arms and suggesting that "shadow people" were powering his opponent. It was a bummer, for those who had to live in it.

Fortunately, Attorney General William Barr does not live in this world.

He has to spend time there, sometimes, mostly so people can yell at him about actions he is undertaking on the president's behalf. But in the world where William Barr lives, none of these things are happening. He is still the attorney general there, but more importantly -- he is a crime-fighting hero! William Barr is the last man standing against civilization-undermining forces that are trying to replace our lovable nation with evil socialism!

Could a heat ray be used to stop these villainous seditionists (who are definitely villainous seditionists and certainly not peaceful protesters)? William Barr is going to find out, and let nothing stand in his way -- certainly not precedent, and definitely not the Constitution! His ally is the president, a good, plucky man, who, if anything, has too limited a sense of the scope of his own powers. Together they possess undreamed-of, unprecedented powers, powers no other president and attorney general duo had thought to claim before! And their enemies throng thickly on every side, be they anarchists, disgruntled Montessori preschoolers or both.

In Barr's world, the real threat to our democracy is not the president who keeps talking about how he ought to have a third term and how violence may be needed to stop "insurrection"! It is . . . the left! As he said to the Federalist Society last year, "it is the Left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law." What a twist! "Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end."

Holy holy war, Barr-man! It's a good thing Barr arrived on the scene in time to stop these crusaders for whom no sinister tactic is off limits. Better get that heat ray!

In this world, "antifa" is a bigger threat than right-wing, homegrown terrorism (and not just because, according to a recent whistleblower, the Department of Homeland Security was urged by Trump appointees to put out an inaccurate threat report that distorts the underlying analysis)! You can tell they are deeply menacing because, as Barr told NBC News, "They have websites." Chilling!

In Barr's world, threats lurk in even the most unexpected corners. Doctors are the last people you should ask for recommendations about how to keep disease from spreading in society, since they are not "grand seers." William Barr, the grandest seer, seers right through them. The coronavirus lockdown is the worst curtailment of civil liberties since slavery! Yes, you read that correctly! And the Black Lives Matter movement is "not interested in Black lives"! Wait until you hear what war is (peace) and ignorance is (strength)!

It's a very exciting place to live, this world. In the world where Barr lives, protesters are attempting sedition, and they must be brought to justice -- along with the dastardly mayors who allowed these assemblies to happen. In Barr World, he is the last bastion standing against nebulous, ominous forces that threaten to undermine everything the good citizens of these United States hold dear, including that which they hold most dear: the unlimited, unitary executive authority of the president.

In this world, of course, William Barr is a hero. In ours? I am not so sure.

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Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.


Advance for release Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, and thereafter

(For Petri clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Alexandra Petri

WASHINGTON -- Believe me when I tell you that the LAST THING I could POSSIBLY want would be to vote for Donald Trump. That's why I am so stunned that you have taken it upon yourself to go to such lengths to FORCE me to vote for him! You sick, sick monster! I don't even (BEG ITAL)like (END ITAL)him, not even one little bit. So I hope you're happy with what YOU are making me do, which comes to me as a total surprise and is definitely not a foregone conclusion in any way.

Over the past four years, Trump's ominous shadow has devoured everything that was precious about America, chewed on it and spat out only bones and gristle. This has slightly obscured the accomplishments of his administration, which include, if I am remembering right (DON'T TELL ME IF I'M NOT; THAT WILL MAKE ME ANGRY, AND YOU KNOW WHO ANGRY PEOPLE VOTE FOR), ending the budget deficit and doing whatever it was Abraham Lincoln did, but better and faster.

Do I think Trump has the attributes necessary for governing? Absolutely not! He is a dangerous man, and every day we spend under his leadership is a day we lose a precious share of the world's respect that we may never regain. There's definitely not a "But!" coming after such a strong and overwhelming condemnation of his leadership.

But! (You MONSTER! I can't BELIEVE you put a "BUT" right here in my otherwise full-throated condemnation! That is the only explanation for how it could have gotten there; I know (BEG ITAL)I (END ITAL)would not have put it there.) I am more afraid that Joe Biden is the unwitting puppet of dangerous socialists, something you forced me to think using a mind ray. God! You're even more disgusting than I imagined.

It is also bizarre and, frankly, counterproductive of you to insist that I not read any of Biden's policy positions on anything, or how you have expended all this effort to make me baselessly paranoid that some shadowy, unseen figure is pulling his strings -- something I would not think on my own! Can't believe you've pushed me to this point.

I should also note that, much as I hold deep, principled reservations about Trump's leadership, I just want to say that if anyone makes me feel the least bit uncomfortable about the legacy of racism in this country or urges me to learn one particle of history that I would not like to learn, I will panic, and when I panic, I vote for Trump (which is, I admit, weird given that I have ZERO desire to do so).

Also, I am sick of media bias. Journalists never quote the president saying anything that makes him look good or sound competent. But just statistically a person must sometimes sound at least kind of competent. Like the monkey-typewriter-Shakespeare thing! So if I see anywhere that the president said something that makes him look bad, malicious or incompetent, you know what that means: I'm going to have to vote for him. Twist my arm, why don't you!

I am not worried about any dictatorial tendencies from Trump. Yes, he says all the time now that he deserves a third term and that his first one should not be counted, and he constantly implies that he will not accept the results of the election as legitimate if they involve the counting of mailed-in ballots. He also loves nothing better than to embrace creepy strongmen abroad! But (whoa, another "but"! You must be really messed up) I just kind of don't think he really will follow through on any of it? And what if Biden, whom I have no reason to believe would do any of these things, were secretly planning something much, much worse?

Are there people on the right as bad as the people on the left who are really what is wrong with America? Yes, I think? You made me frame that very confusingly. Sure, it's bad that the president is giving aid and cover to white supremacists, but -- I can't BELIEVE you would make me put another "but" here! This isn't a sentence that should have a "but" in it! Though while we're here, I guess I would say, since you've forced me to -- (BEG ITAL)but(END ITAL) how much do we really need to care about that? You've given me no choice but to vote for Trump.

Is there anything any of you could say or do that would make me (BEG ITAL)not(END ITAL) vote for him? Wow, it's condescending questions like this that have really forced my hand.

So I am going to hold my nose and vote for Donald Trump. It would be a real shame for the country, I think, but then again, it might not be such a shame. It almost feels like you WANT me to do it. OK, I'll do it.

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Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of the essay collections "Nothing Is Wrong And Here Is Why" and "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.
  • A Field Guide To Awkward Silences
  • Nothing Is Wrong And Here IS Why
  • National Press Club Angele Gingras Award for Humor Writing 2016, Shorty Award 2016, Forbes 30 Under 30, Fifty Funniest People Right Now (Rolling Stone)