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Deal with it. Assholes will always trump the virtuous

Yertle the Turtle

When I was younger, my favorite book was Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss. I read it hundreds of times. Growing up, we had no cable, no internet, and a single TV with only 3 watchable channels, so my curricular activity options were limited, and no matter how deep and controversial the topics, conversations with my stuffed animals could only hold my interest for so long.

If you've never read the book, here's the gist.
Yertle is the self-proclaimed king of a bale of turtles, whose throne is a rock in the middle of a small pond. One day he decides his throne is too low for such an intelligent and powerful turtle as he. So he orders the rest of the turtles to climb on each others backs to form a stack on top of the rock. Yertle then perches himself at the top of his new impressive turtle-throne.  
Still not satisfied, Yertle orders turtles from all the other ponds in the valley to continue building the stack up, up, and up, until the only thing above Yertle is the moon.
Before Yertle can stick it too that smug moon by adding more turtles to his throne, a humble, gentle turtle named Mack, pinned at the very bottom of the stack, accidentally burps. The burp sends a tremor through the unstable turtle skyscraper and causes the entire structure to tumble to the ground. The story ends with a fallen and disgraced Yertle, hunched at the bottom of the pond with a head covered in smelly mud.

I often wondered what happened in the turtle pond after the fall of Yertle's kingdom. Sometimes I imagined that Yertle apologized to the other turtles, which lead to an all-turtle collaborative effort to convert their society to a democracy. On my darker days, I imagined Yertle blaming everyone but himself for his failure, and then angrily skulking off to some god-forsaken pond where he remained alone and bitter for the rest of his days. Both scenarios brought me pleasure. Being a sucker for the underdog, each time I finished reading the last page of this book and fantasizing about the sequel, a warm sense of vindication and justice  spread through my body, like a serving of delicious soup.

Yertle the Turtle shaped a strong belief in my mind that the Yertles in our society would eventually lose, and that the virtuous Mack's  out there would eventually rule the day. I naively believed that due to Karma, the universe, common sense or whatever,  the Yertle's in the world would eventually "get theirs" and  things would work out for the rest of us turtles who love and respect others and are trying to be good people. As a result of this belief, I never worked on becoming a Yertle, or someone who could benefit from hanging with a Yertle. Instead, I spent most of my formative years happily swimming around the swamp,  making jokes, playing and not taking  many things seriously.

Growing up life was blissful. I was ignorantly happy and things were easy. Then I came of age and my awesome parents severed the apron strings. I had to start earning money to survive. This rapidly turned me from a free, blissful pond turtle, into one of those idiotic turtles willingly sandwiching themselves between a bunch of smelly rubes in order to support  Yertle's ever expanding ass to assure my own (perceived) safety and survival.

Fast-forward 20 Years. 

I've worked in corporate America for the past twenty years. During those last two decades, the Yertles on the top of the stack only changed in name and face. My lowly position in the turtle shit-sandwich changed very little. When one Yertle toppled, another took his or her, (but seriously and sadly, mostly his) place. My two imagined sequel ideas after the original book were both ridiculously unrealistic. In reality, the realistic sequel to Yertle the Turtle is the story about how an asshole named Stu who was sitting just two-turtles under Yertle, rose up and took Yertle's place at the top of us pathetic, naive common turtles.

Take Aways/Lessons Learned

If I could go back and change things, I would do one of the following:

  1. Become a Yertle myself
  2. Go find a completely new and unique tiny pond of my own
  3. Accept that there will always be a Yertle standing on my fragile back. So to cope and enjoy life, get to know my neighboring turtles, enjoy their friendship, and love and respect the sunrise and sunset, the green of the valley in the summer and the spectacular blanket of sparkling snow in the winter.

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