The Harris Pole 2007: Based on My Annual Interview with Santa Claus by The Other Katherine Harris

by The Other Katherine Harris
Featured writer
Dandelion Salad
Dec. 5, 2007

For the complete Harris Pole experience, please see the illustrated version HERE.

Happy Holiday Wishes to You and Yours!

NORTH POLE – Visiting formerly ice-bound Kringleshire is almost easy now, with ferries and hovercraft replacing sled services across the Arctic region. Although a boon for the elf economy, which lost many toy manufacturing jobs to Asian imports, maritime transit has put countless dogs are out of work. Once-proud Huskies hound travelers in most localities, begging scraps. However, those lucky enough to reach the headquarters of Kringle clan chief and philanthropist S. Claus can count on a dignified retirement at full rations.

What can’t be counted on there is a functional dock, since the rising sea keeps submerging them. Claus met my ferry in a rowboat on which a lovely dog sat like a hood ornament. “She was almost starved, when she got here,” he told me, giving the Husky a cuddle. “We take in as many as we can,” he added — a fact that became evident on reaching shore.

We stopped to pat a few Huskies lolling on sun loungers, as we made our way into the house, which rocked on a new understructure of pontoons placed to save it from the melt. Once settled into his study to conduct the interview, I turned my recorder on and posed the obvious first question. “You’re getting lots of letters asking for pets, I hope?”

Claus winced. “Pups are usually easy to place, but — ”

“Hardly anybody wants an old dog. I know.”

“Fewer and fewer. Folks can’t justify paying a vet, if they can barely afford a doctor.”

“You’ve been following news of our health crisis,” I observed with a nod toward his computer in the corner.

“Hardly necessary. You could write a history of the world from the letters in my warehouses.” He exchanged his shades for specs and showed me a spreadsheet. “Pet requests have been down for months,” he pointed out, ” and lately we’re receiving cancellations. With food costs rocketing as they are, taking on another mouth to feed is a problem everywhere. And, in your country and Britain, people are losing their houses, or in fear of it. They don’t know if they’ll have a yard next year or if animals will be allowed.”

“It’s grim,” sighed an elf who stepped in bearing cocoa. He looked about 10, but must have been much older, since he went on to say, “We haven’t read so many heart-wrenching notes since 1929.”

“Make that circa 1200, Mustardseed. They’re back to begging for habeas corpus.” Claus rifled through a stack of ancient parchments on his desk and plucked one out, saying, “On second thought, make it 1184.”

I took a quick look at the letter he gave me and returned it. “Sorry, I don’t read Middle English.”

“Essentially it says, ‘Dear King Frost, please make this Inquisition thingy stop. They’re smacking my parents around.’ And the P.S. asks if they might someday have a bit of land to work that no overlord could take the best from, or drive them off. ”

His eyes were misting over and he didn’t bother trying to hide it. He set a hand on another sheaf of documents, as if absorbing pain through his palm. “These are a few from the The Hundred Years’ War. At the start, it was about Gascony and controlling salt and wine. Lord, how everybody wanted a longbow then, and lessons. Crossbows were totally over. But soon Brit kids were begging for their dads to come back from occupying France. The French were pleading not to be burned out of their homes and for a king who wasn’t mad as a badger. Toward the end, some asked only for me to save Jeanne from the kangaroo court and the stake.”

“Stunning, the similarities,” I nodded. “How did we regress so many centuries within a lifetime? A little mortal lifetime, I mean, and just a piece of it. I can remember –”

Suddenly Claus’ blue gaze drilled a hole through me. “That’s your burden to bear. Your lot had the best deal civilization ever managed to produce for the general good and you threw it away.”

“You know we were duped.”

“You let yourselves be duped. They were only richer and greedier than you, not smarter.” His pensive face broke to a tiny smile. “When your mother said, ‘You have to follow the rules, because they were made by people a lot smarter than we are,’ do you recall what you told her?”

“Out doing a ‘naughty’ check, were you?”

“You screamed, ‘They may be older and know more than I do right now, but they aren’t any smarter!’ You were six then and properly outraged.”

“I made your globe that year,” Mustardseed grinned while topping up our cocoa cups.

“I loved that globe! I wore it out.”

Claus hmpfed and I turned to him, saying, “I loved the books you picked, too, about ancient civilizations and distant places. I read them over and over –”

“Well, they certainly didn’t do for you what a set of letter blocks did for Joey Gutenberg! And you always liked the dolls best.”

“So I’m no inventor. Are you suggesting it was frivolous for me to major in –”

“I don’t mind if you studied pheasant-plucking! But what did you ever do as a citizen, besides vote, until recently?”

“Um, I did watch the Watergate hearings.”

“All those things you’re proud of blogging about now, you could’ve figured out decades sooner, if you hadn’t been too much the artiste to sully your thoughts with political theory and economics.”

“You read my blogs?”

“Does the name ‘Edmund Burke’ mean anything to you?”

“Didn’t he write a boring riff on Aristotelian aesthetics?”

“At 25. A scribble. Eddie grew up to be a politician. He supported your own country against the old King George. In Parliament, he also made a name by tearing into the East India Company, first of those transnationals you eventually learned to abhor. Burke knew what they were capable of, like fomenting famine in Bengal by buying up all the rice when the rains failed. This is the line I most hoped you’d run across: ‘There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men.’ It might have changed your life.”

“Yeah, I’ve been way too trusting. Even when I knew better, I chose it as a virtue.”

The ho-hos that followed weren’t merry, merely loud enough to hear in Greenland. After they subsided, Claus expounded on Burke’s reactionary turn, when the French revolted. At heart, he was an elitist upholding hereditary ascendancy, although he expected the privileged to play nicely with others and opposed unrestrained power even in royals. “Schizy,” Claus summed him up, “but anti-tyranny.”

“You find a lot of time to read, I guess. In the off-season.”

Claus hmphed again. “Being allusive is unbecoming at your age. If you’re trying to say I’m full of shit, just say it.”

“Santa! This isn’t like you!”

Oh? You should’ve seen me in 1184, Sweetheart, when that first Inquisition took off. And at plenty of other times when the bastards were extending themselves. This is worse, because they were finally being reined in!”

“My point was just the lack of time to read. Americans work longer now than anybody outside East Asian sweatshops.”

“And my point is that you brought it on yourselves. Justice never comes as a gift. People have to demand it. Or do what’s needed to keep it. What were you doing when they started busting unions? What were you doing when jobs began flooding out and imports in? What were you doing when they killed the Fairness Doctrine and created media monopolies to shill for them? What were you doing when they caused the first wave of homelessness by closing mental hospitals — literally turning sick people out on the streets? What were you doing when they canceled alternate energy tax credits and subsidized oil companies, instead? What were you doing when they cut taxes on corporations and the rich — again and again? What were you doing while your country crushed other societies with corrupt dictatorships and debt, in the name of development aid? What were you doing while the environment went to ruin? What was so bloody important that you couldn’t take note and say NO?”

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Oh, please. Surely you grasp how it works by now, Ms. Rather-Be-a-Victim-than-a-Predator, after wasting so much of your life making a false choice come true. You’ve wished yourself all the way to an honorable victimhood — saddled with your own dictator and kangaroo courts, debt that will take generations to pay and a workhouse economy with no use for your kind.”

“Because we thought it was bound to stop; we expected better of humanity –”

“Hell, even Ghandi said, ‘Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.'”

“Yes, yes, I get it! But for most of these decades of ruin, we weren’t in charge; much older people were!”

“That’s pitiful. You kids managed to stop the disaster in Vietnam, didn’t you?”

“And then came Kent State! We were terrorized.”

“Exactly. That was their first strike back at the vanguard of an educated middle class that actually threatened to run the world. It worked. You’ve been cowards ever since — scared children in a trance, clinging to your comforting ideals while the bigger kids beat them with sticks, tore their eyes out, snapped their heads off. Only the worst of you grew up until lately. You’ve let the sort who tortured animals as tots become your leaders: the bullies, the shameless liars, the wantonly greedy. They don’t succumb to shock; they specialize in doing the shocking, and these few defectives without empathy have had full sway, because you refused to challenge them, refused even to believe they could be that awful. Meanwhile, new generations floundered, lacking your memory of better times and the principled leadership you should have given them sooner. And so it came to this.”

While Claus closed his eyes and rubbed them, I turned the recorder off and finished my cocoa. “Yep,” I said, “we’re back in the world again, trying to do in our 50s what we should have done in our 20s. It was a long, long sleep. And this is going to be a long, long Harris Pole. Usually they’re short squibs about clever ways you’re coping with the meltdown here, how the sleigh got booster rockets to keep Dick Cheney from shooting you down as a terrorist and how the Justice Department keeps suing you over your ‘naughty and nice’ files, smoking on an aircraft, abusing children by giving them sugary treats, promoting world peace and saying ‘happy holidays’. This year — well, it definitely went another direction — but I’d entertained visions of your joining Reverend Billy’s ‘Stop the Shopacalpyse’ tour.”

Claus opened an eye and let out a really good ho-ho. Mustardseed hopped up and down, squealing, “That’s where we’ll be tomorrow!”

“Let’s go hear the elves practicing their new carols,” Claus suggested, which set the elf racing out ahead of us and singing, “Pack the malls with folks with money. T’is the season to be dummies!”

“I can only go where the wishes take me, you know,” Claus confided as we followed, “and lately the letters are showing a lot more sense. Things could be very different by next Christmastime.”


Babes at Arms by The Other Katherine Harris (child soldiers; recruiting)