Wherein I Learn We are Bad Winners [Hyperbolic Tendencies] May06

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Wherein I Learn We are Bad Winners [Hyperbolic Tendencies]

Growing up, I was part of a highly competitive and very successful organization that was a perennial championship contender. My first year with the group, I, along with all of the other rookies, was told by the leader, “You are part of an organization that knows how to win,” he said. “We’ve won before but winning is not what’s most important, it’s how you get to the winner’s circle and how you acknowledge those over whom you’ve triumphed. So when you win, act like you’ve been there before.”

When you win, act like you’ve been there before. These words stuck with me.

Recently everyone learned that Osama bin Laden is dead and I think we can all agree that the world is a tad safer without his twisted brain fueling the fires of hate.  What I wasn’t prepared for, though, were the images of celebration from around our country. The massive groups gathered, waving America flags and chanting, USA! USA! USA! as if they were at the Olympics and not just having learned of someone’s death.

True, this particular dead man has some serious shit to atone for, but it was still a death. Being celebrated. If the American flags had been on fire and I’d muted the television, my first guess would have been that I was watching archival footage of Middle Eastern zealots celebrating the fall of the twin towers on 9/11. Ghastly behavior.

When you win, act like you’ve been there before.

Watching my fellow citizens whipped into what has become the all too familiar fervor of jingoism, I realized that as a nation, we seem to have forgotten how to win with any sense of grace or dignity. This shouldn’t be a real surprise, since we haven’t really won anything since World War II. It could be argued that winning the race to putting a man on the moon was our last major victory, but even then, Its been 40 years since we won anything of real import. No wonder we’re such terrible winners.

Like the football fan at the stadium that revels in antagonizing and berating anyone in the immediate vicinity who deigns to support the other team, we seem to have no real respect for ourselves, let alone the game itself. For us, the game is solely about winning, not how the game is played or the consequences. Though this should come as no surprise in a country where talking points pass for discussion, corporations can vote, and the nonsensical ravings of talk-radio are parroted as gospel.

I think back to the leader who made such an impression on me all those years ago, and the lessons he taught. Perhaps if we were able to dismantle the unsustainable part of our economy historian Charles Beard dubbed “perpetual war for perpetual peace,” we could begin to develop new ways of learning how to win again – properly investing in education, health care, clean energy, and updated infrastructure – and we would once again find ourselves not just in the winner’s circle, but admired for how we got there.

When you win, act like you’ve been there before.

Learning how to be a good winner a bit too daunting to tackle today? Instead, read a copy of Hell House: The Awakening. It’s guaranteed escapism as its finest! That’s not enough fodder for procrastination? Then follow me and my hyperbolic tendencies on Twitter.