“Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.”
-John Milton, Paradise Lost
After a stroll down around the Tidal Basin to sneer at the cherry blossoms, the devil soon finds himself on Capitol Hill. The Capitol Police assume the devil is some big-shot lobbyist, member of Congress or agent provocateur so they readily invite him inside. The devil isn’t lost this day. He has a particular person in mind.
Indeed, the lesser demons of hell had already informed their dark prince of an up-and-coming young Senate staffer — a young man so famed for his reason, rationality and honesty that even veteran U.S. Senators long lost to any decency show respect for his boyish logic and love of the truth. These senators, of course, also respect that they could never trust such an honest man in their midst for too long and are happy to point the devil in the young staffer’s direction.
The devil approaches and says, “Son, let me tell you what. I hear your logic and honesty are as secure as Christ’s seat in heaven. In fact, several senators I’ve already promised plum positions in hell can’t seem to shut up about you and your amazing qualities. That’s all they ever seem to talk about at our weekly Demons Anonymous meetings. You’re the talk of hell, son, and it annoys me to no end to hear their incessant prattle about you. Seriously, I haven’t been this peeved since Job. That said, I would wager that for all your vaunted logic and love of truth-telling you will ultimately prove to be just as foolish as the rest of the human race. So, I’ll make a bet with you.”
“Alright,” says the staffer, “but before I hear you out can we discuss this over a drink? In my book, bets are best discussed over beer.”
“Sure,” says the devil, “but I only drink Chardonnay.”
They walk silently for a few minutes to a well-worn local bar not far from the Capitol complex.
“Ah, Ted Kennedy has told me about this place,” says the devil as the two nestle into a booth.
“I’ve heard the stories. So, what’s this bet of yours?” asks the staffer.
“Let us both run for president,” says the devil.
“OK?” the young man says with a raised eyebrow.
“Don’t worry about the practical details of such an endeavor,” the devil continues, “I didn’t come to rule my own kingdom without certain special abilities. I’ll guarantee we’re the only two candidates on the ballot and that we’ll both possess equitable resources — money, staff, media access, etc. If mere men can rig the election process, you know the devil easily can too. That said, you’re at least 35 years of age, right? Not even the devil himself can amend the U.S. Constitution these days.”
“I’m 36. What's the catch?” asks the young politico as he sips his drink.
“The condition is this: you may go out armed to the teeth with your esteemed honesty, logic and appeals to man’s reason. But that is all you may use. Whereas I will go out and appeal only to man’s emotions. I will play on their fear, envy, and lust with all manner of lies, deceptions, and false promises. Those will be my exclusive weapons. So what do you say? Honesty versus falsehood! Truth versus lies! The Light of Logos versus the Prince of Darkness! Just think of it! The American people will love the spectacle! Think of the advertising revenues! My buddies in the media will make a killing! Of course, whoever gets the most votes in the Electoral College wins.”
“And what are the stakes?” asks the young man.
“You win, and I will no longer torment the poor souls of Earth for the rest of eternity. Mind you, that’s quite a long time. I win, and your soul will be mine to torture relentlessly for all eternity. Also, a very long time. What do you say?”
“No, not today, Satan,” says the staffer, finishing his drink and rising from the table, “I’d rather try to serve Heaven than ever try to rule this hell.”
To win any devil's political bet, best not to play at all — unless one is prepared to be a little like the devil himself.
You may chat with the devil, you may walk with the devil, you may even share a drink with the devil, but a truly wise and honest man knows never to try to beat those devils who worship power at their own game.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12 noon. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email email@example.com.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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