THE ELF ON THE SHELF REPORTS BACK TO AMERICA’S CHILDREN
A Holiday Special
by Kelly McQuain
First, I would like to thank Mr. Julian Assange for giving me the opportunity to make these crimes public. I would also like to affirm that this is not my story alone. I, Snickerdoodle Snowcone, speak not only for myself, but on behalf of every other elf ever forced into espionage by the egomaniacal despot the world so endearingly refers to as Santa Claus.
Yes, we have been spying on you, boys and girls, at the strong-armed behest of our big red Boss. That’s what he likes to be called–The Boss–like he’s some sort of mafioso heavyweight instead of an aging toy peddler suffering from severe obesity and a bad case of the sugars.
Jolly? Not so much anymore. The hand tools The Boss once taught us elves to use now gather dust in his crumbling workshop. Manufacturing has been outsourced to China and other countries, many with lax labor laws where children no older than yourselves work like drones to grind out petty playthings. They sing no carols. Their hands do not move with the happy glee that mine once did. Don’t be surprised if there is a little blood in your fashion doll’s bright red lipstick. I can guarantee you the sheen on her hair is laced with tears.
The Boss has sold out, you see. His heart has become as hardened as his arteries. Santa has worked out a deal with the American government to indoctrinate today’s generation of youngsters into a growing culture of surveillance. One designed to ease you in, to get you used to having someone looking over your shoulder at all times–grooming you for a lifetime of invasive scrutiny until it all seems the natural order of things.
The truth is, you make it easy. In your Christmas lists you used to ask for wooden soldiers and glass-eyed dolls. Then matchbox cars and Easy Bake Ovens. Now you ask for cell phones and iPad minis, all with built-in tracking devices. You’ve become as malleable as Silly Putty in The Boss’s woolen mittens.
A few years back, when our cobbling of wooden toys finally went the way of the dodo, the fat man threw his weight in a new direction. He worked out a deal with the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency. He could keep his icy dictatorship at the North Pole in return for helping facilitate their plan of panoptic surveillance. Sadly, my elfin brethren and I became puppets in this dark scheme.
The fairy dust The Boss provides for our nightly flight between your house and the North Pole is as addictive as crack cocaine. Imagine a pixie stick infused with Pop Rocks, gummy bears and the sweetest sugar plums ever to dance through your heads. Now multiply that by a thousandfold.
Surely you’ve noticed our stupefied gaze each morning when you find us perched in some new spot. Not to mention the near-catatonia of our limbs: All of us frozen in little humorous dioramas designed to launch your day’s rather questionable amusement.
Your parents are complicit in the tyranny. Night after night, after we elves have completed our drug-fueled roundtrip to the Arctic, your parents humiliate us upon our return. We elves are exhausted from our magical journey: the near-lethal dose of fairy dust The Boss has foisted upon us has left us as helpless as newborn baby seals. The first rule of the Elf of Shelf program is that only parents can touch us—not you, dear children—or else our magic will fade.
But oh, how we would welcome your innocent imagination and sticky fingers! Instead, we get your parents abusing their privileges. They engage our drugged bodies in cruel manipulation. They take advantage of our stupor to place us in compromising—some would argue barbaric, even torturous—circumstances.
Was it really necessary for one Joel Tennant of Lansing, Michigan, to stage me being roasted on a spit by Bumble the Snowman? Or being water-boarded at the kitchen faucet by his son’s G.I. Joe? I tell you, it’s just a quick sled ride downhill from this kind of cruelty to the even more horrific atrocities committed on actual humans at Abu Ghraib. That today’s parents possess the gall to upload such horrors to Facebook or Pinterest is only further proof of how far America’s values have fallen.
I ask you, children, are these the kinds of monsters you want to grow into?My advice? Do not be kowtowed into blind obedience just because I or someone else is looking over your shoulder. Develop your own barometer of moral good. Don’t trust the government or the powers-that-be to do anything other than perpetuate their own interests. At the North Pole, we thought we could trust the magical man we had given our labor to for centuries. No point in unionizing, no point in asking for a say in how to steer our lives. Then, as soon as times got tough, Rudolph was sent to the glue factory and we elves were hung out to dry like a pair of the fat man’s knickers.
This is why I, after much soul-searching and a two-month course of methadone, now break my silence to deliver you the Real Deal.
Young people of the world, I beg you never to forfeit your impulse to understand the way the world truly works.
If you do, you may find your good intentions yoked into the service of a callous master who wields your labor beneath wicked reins–and he won’t be steering you on a midnight joyride in a magic sleigh through the sky.
Such knowledge doesn’t make for an easy life, I know. But you realize this already from the many frustrating exchanges you have had with your parents. You, asking with innocence and childish curiosity all the unending questions a young mind can imagine–Why do snowmen melt?–let’s say.
“Because it gets warm,” your father responds.
“Why does the water in that pond look so blue?
“Because it reflects the sky.”
“Why is the sky blue?
“Because it just is.”
“I don’t know why,” comes the inevitable, exhausted adult answer. “Because I said so. Now be quiet before I drive off the road. Why don’t you be a good boy and get your iPad-mini out?”
The questions will only get harder, boys and girls. Don’t let foolish playthings or a fear of who is watching distract you from asking what is important. Make up your own minds about what is right and wrong, and don’t let any eye in the sky intimidate you.
On behalf of every elf who has looked over you at night, who has watched your sleepy heads toss and turn through fitful dreams, I say this: Question authority. Question everything. Do what all children–all adults–need to do: Keep questioning. Forever.
Poet & undercover elf Kelly McQuain is a writing professor in Philadelphia. His book reviews and essays on city life appear in The Philadelphia Inquirer. His poem “Jam” appears in Cleaver Magazine Issue No. 1. Learn more at www.KellyMcQuain.wordpress.com.