To Win is to Sin

PS 47 Facade

A win for one means a loss for many more. Winners are, on their face, an instance of disparity. For every one winner there are the great masses who didn’t win. So, the train of thought goes, the problem is the winner, who by victory has created angst for everyone else. The winner is the sinner. We have to punish the winner and praise everyone equally so that no one will experience disparity and angst.

What a horrible, self-created prison that is, to enact a tyranny where it is forever Freshman Year of High School and everyone is wearing the uniform, cowed into talking the lingo, the populars and the jocks beaten into submission and the long line for the guidance counselor is the hot place to be. To be with the “in” crowd you have to learn the linguistic gymnastics of political correctness. Inclusion is based on whether you are oppressed in some way. Conflict is expressed in terms of perceived triggers and micro-aggression.

Nobody knew what to do with me in High School. I was not stupid, far from it. I owned leisure suits and wore them when I felt like it. Most of the time I was unkempt, favoring ratty jeans, a Levi’s jeans jacket, Converse All-Stars, and an old graphic t-shirt. I left my hair long, parted in the middle, with that David Cassidy, Farrah Fawcett blow dried flip of the 1970’s. I was not “disco” fashionable. Nor was I discernibly grunge. I defied categorization and was good with that. I put enough work in to maintain a C- average and annoy my parents.

I still wear graphic t-shirts and jeans. I’d wear Crocs or Birkenstock’s full time if I didn’t have a job that required slacks, a shirt & decent shoes. I’m indifferent to the level of hygiene expected of a cubicle rat in the 21st century. I do it because I must. Left to myself . . . you wouldn’t like it.

I carry with me a bitter suspicion of winners. The winners were the ones bullying me on the school-yard. I’m still constantly forgiving them–for the last 50 years. To win is to defy the unhealed inner child still with me who took all those foul words from the winners and buried them deep in his soul. That broken little boy is supposed to fail. He is to embody all that he was told–that he is a loser, a pussy, a wimp, that his properly ordered place in life is at the door-way to the dance-hall watching all the winners get their girls.

About a year ago my Dad told me that RCA didn’t give him the windfall I see in his investment accounts. They fired him. He barely managed to get a small distribution of his pension out of it. His net worth of nearly a million dollars has come over the last 30 years as he has invested and saved. He is a winner. He is also a solid union man and passionate socialist. His red-diaper credentials don’t protect him from the Occupy Her Pants crowd or the Black Lives Mutter bunch. He is still their Voldemort.

OHP, BLM, pretty much all of my red-diaper kin share one failing–the thing that drives them is fear. There is no god, no grace, the law and government have failed them, nothing to hope for, no future, no reason not to shoot cops and burn D.C. Everybody must lose because no one is allowed to win. Peace can only come in death because god is dead and fear has become their Lord.

Pretty bleak. I listen to NPR, good little red-diaper baby that I am. Some years ago there was a retired teacher from the NY public schools who had done everything right, lived simply, saved and invested, and retired with a net worth that exceeded $1,000,000. She was living on capital gains. The Occupy Wall-Street Hotness’ Pants troupe would have this retired teacher give up her capital gains earnings to live in Public Housing on TANF, SSDI & SNAP. Ditto my Dad, who committed many venal sins by being a white-collar, union engineer for the part of RCA that made radar and weapons control systems.

Is that really better? To punish successful union workers who have arrived late in their careers at a net worth that makes them capitalist fat cats? To beat down the populars and jocks and increase the wait time to see a guidance counselor? Consider this: the crowd cowed in the study room in the high school library demanding to be protected from triggers, demanding that the room be cleared out of the WPA tables & chairs and redecorated with a SmartTV, Hulu account, a microwave, body pillows and bean-bag chairs and upgraded with faster WiFi, is picking winners and losers.

There are winners in that room. The difference is that the winners picked are those amenable to the assembled before the SmartTV binge watching Game of Thrones. The sin committed, somebody won. It just isn’t that old lady who taught at that NYPS before OWSHP moved in to the study room and decided to dominate the bandwidth or my Dad, who is all the wrong adjectives.

The little boy who still lives as a ghost on the school yard of Whitman Elementary School, afraid to play kickball because he feared being shamed, that boy grew up to be me. The trend line of wins & losses has gradually shifted in favor of wins. The core belief that to win is to sin has lost its power and fear has been replaced by Christ. If you are in that study room owning the Roku remote come on out. While you were in there building your micro-utopia we’ve been out here enjoying what God made for us. All the Walking Dead episodes can never equal a 30 minute walk on a trail in the James River Park system. I know of no better soundscape for anxiety than what you’ll hear on Belle Island.

Yes, it rains, it gets cold, there are mean people out here who say and do awful things, some of them watched back episodes of Seinfeld with you. There is real risk and actual injury. Along with that there is beauty, joy and [shocker], [trigger-warning] victory. OMG. Worse, there are people forgiving and healing and learning to love frenemies. There are healthy, well-adjusted people, some of them union members, retired, who put in the time, did the work and now, live in houses that are paid for and don’t owe for their cars. There are friends out here who will walk with you and listen to you as you adjust to the light and smells of this world outside that study room. But . . . leaving that study room will be disruptive, just so you know.

I’m learning to make peace with that little inner-boy who is afraid to play kickball. I’ve forgiven many over the years and continue to do so. There is lately a coworker who could be seen as rather aggressive and trigger-rich. Learning to love him though I feel him as an enemy is yet again a lesson in counter-intuitive, disruptive living as a follower of Christ. The little inner-boy wants the Roku remote back. I choose to be out here being transformed by God in the mix with my coworker. I’m winning and that’s odd & difficult & somewhat thrilling.