3/10/2013

When I am King: Poperrific



When I am King...

I’ll be Pope, too.

It occurred to me that the conclave is happening this next week. The conclave. No, not opposite of convex, the papal conclave; the event that happens every time a Pope dies (usually), when it’s time to elect a new Pope. Only this time, it’s happening without a dead pope, instead there's just a lazy pope that quit mid-term. (Sorry, I don’t know why he quit. Maybe he’s considering running for President and got offered a job with Fox News in the interim.)

It doesn’t matter why he quit. What does matter is that it is time to elect a Pope. Which is huge.

In our modern world, with such modern concepts as Representative Democracy and Parliamentary Democracy of some nations, along with the model spoused by countries such as Iran and North Korea of Complete Lunatic Dictatorship, the Papacy (uncomfortably close to the phrase “Pap Smear”) is as close to a monarchy as we get these days. Sure, there are actual monarchies in countries like Englandthe United Kingdom, but let’s face it; those kings and queens gave up their true power long ago for the luxury of keeping their heads attached to their necks. The closest they get to actually ruling is deciding what king of marmalade to have on their morning toast.

I’ve decided that being Pope is as close to a being King as this world offers. And that particular kingship is up for grabs. All it takes is one single election result and I'm in. Sure, it's a long shot, especially since I'm not actually a Cardinal, I haven't been nominated, I'm not Catholic (or Christian… or even religious), and I don't happen to be in Rome this week. But even so, this election represents the best chance yet I have at being elected King.

A word on the papal conclave: Some consider this process to be the epitome of democracy. In a normal governmental election, everyone votes once, the votes are tallied, and the winner is announced. In some more advanced societies, the winner is actually determined by an "electoral college", which bears as much resemblance to "college" as senior home bingo game does to a frat party. This extra twist on elections allows country to place less emphasis on how many people voted for each candidate and more on where those people are from. The reasoning for this goes along with other geography-based determinants in our society, like where you go to school, where you take your date to dinner, and where your alibi places you when the cops call.

The papal conclave, however, takes democracy a step further, enabling the participants to vote not once, not twice, but as many times as they want to until they're happy with the result. Imagine how great our other democracies would be if we could simply keep voting until the losing side got tired and went to bed. All we need is for the voting public to be at least 85 years old and too damn old and tired to care, which is the fundamental nature of the conclave and the cardinalship in general.

The other crucial element of the conclave is the announcement of the result. In other modern societies, we watch the news feed which helpfully informs us of early polling results so that we can decide whether it's worth the bother of driving 5 minutes to the polling station. If our candidate of choice is losing badly, it's probably better to just stay in the chair and have another six pack. This ensures that the people in our society that have the most impact on elections are those on the eastern side of the country in later time zones, and those that vote early in the morning. This approach ensures a fair and equal election, effectively wiping out the drunk vote of those that get hammered in the evening and decide not to risk a DUI ticket for the slim chance that their vote would count. Early morning drunks are, of course, still a factor in the electoral process. But fortunately our voting systems depend on complex motor skills such as poking holes in papers and drawing straight lines, which tends to weed out the hopelessly inebriated from the count.

The conclave, on the other hand, depends on the classic system of Indian Smoke Signals, notifying the world not what the early results are, but rather just a yes/no result of whether there are results. This is akin to news stations posting bulletins that "Elections are still being held today," which would be incredibly helpful, given how little most of us care and how likely we are to keep forgetting.

Black smoke indicates that the voting continues and that a Pope has not yet been chosen. White smoke indicates that the election is complete and that there is a new Pope, or that the ribs are done and most of the fat has burned off. Colored smoke is a sign that on of the cardinals is just screwing with us.

Once the new Pope has been chosen, there is elaborate ceremony, including a parade down Broadway, with block-sized blowup dolls of popes throughout history, and confetti made from shredded communion wafers, allowing the entire city to take communion together, possibly the only interesting thing to have happened at a parade since the mistake of letting the Hindenburg lead the Macy's Day parade in 1937.

These are all of the elements surrounding a papal election, but the internal details of the election itself are covered in a mysterious shroud, maybe one with smudges that vaguely resemble a face. It is this secretive element of the process that makes me so hopeful; if nobody knows how it's actually working, who's to say that my name couldn't be tossed into that tall, pointy hat?

All I ask is that the Cardinals carefully consider my nomination. And that they also consider the large monetary kickback that I'd freely donate to them from the overflowing coffers of the Vatican, because I'd definitely be willing to pay my way in. After all, the election of a Pope doesn't happen every year; I'd better take advantage of this opportunity rather than spend the next several years regretting and waiting for the next Pope to die or quit.

All I need now is the nomination to achieve critical mass.
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