Winners and Losers: Competition in the American Psyche

Somebody’s Gonna Win, Somebody’s Gonna Lose

Winners and  losers. That’s the name of the game.

“American Idol”  certainly tells us that. American coffee-shop customers watching the  bunched up “Tour de France” cyclists on the winding, stretches of a two-lane highway in the Pyrenees tell us that. The swift-footed American FIFA soccer team tells us that. The sweaty and bulky tv wrestlers certainly tell us that.

And the electoral college, what does it have to reveal? Well, no Spoiler Alert there:  Somebody’s gonna win. Somebody’s gonna lose. Or as one tv contestant said, “Second’s not fun. First is what it’s all about.”

So, what is it about this pursuit of winning? This mania to be at the top of one’s game? This drive for a promotion or a bonus. This need to pass the car in front of us on the Interstate 5? This compulsion to get another right answer? Continue reading


The Shroud of Fatalism

So, you have  a great day at school. Your teachers laugh at your jokes. You get a 95 on your math exam. You talk to one of your teachers during lunch. They tell you are a remarkable young man. You leave the school at three and walk home. You’re in high gear. The world is your oyster.

Then you walk through the front door of your home. Your mother is screaming at your father. You duck as a frying pan comes flying across the kitchen. She’s yelling at your dad, “you took Janet to the drive in, didn’t you? I saw the popcorn in the back seat of the car. You’ve been sleeping with her again.” Janet was  my red-headed Brenda Star look-alike aunt, my mother’s sister-in-law.

That was the daily routine: Great day at school. The Inferno at home. Kids, of course, learn to make connections, as irrational as they may be.  When they are nurtured in one place and are dragged into the emotional muck in another, they begin to believe that, not only are there no guarantees in life, but that life cannot be trusted to offer any permanent security. They will always ask themselves, “when is the other shoe going to fall off?” And they  view happiness as an occasional blip on the machine of life, more often than not, set on disappointment. Continue reading