What Winning Looks Like

I know that to many of you, our world is literally going down in flames.  The threat of nuclear war, years of international terrorism, economic instability, and the genuine worry whether the earth will be habitable for our grandchildren is a hard pill to swallow.  Then, there is this:
You've probably looked at the photos or seen a video or heard the chanting on the radio.  I won't give them any more of my thoughts or attention because they don't deserve it.  Instead, I want to talk about winning.  It seems an odd topic, but bear with me.  Hear me out.

Think about Usain Bolt.  Mo Farah.  They just finished their careers at the World Athletic Championships in London.  They finished losers.  Justin Gatlin (who, as an American, I feel like I need to cheer on anyway) beat the fastest man in the world.  Take a minute and watch it, because it's important:

I'm not going to lie to you: sports are just not my favorite thing.  Ever since Parkeith Ziegler won every race at Field Day and got covered in ribbons while I got a measly plain white 3rd place in the Tug of War, I've literally not been a fan.  But I'm not a total sore loser.  I just don't think it teaches very good life lessons.  Sport is king from T-ball to the MLB, and parents who love it are constantly talking about the team aspect, the hard work and the perseverance sport instills.  But it also teaches a very serious and very wrong lesson about winning.


And yes, if you are on a tennis court or a football field or a track, those things are all true.  But in life?  My experience tells me a different story.  I recently saw the film Dunkirk, and the scary thing was the thought of being stuck on a beach, knowing that was the last bit of unconquered civilization.  Nothing but a strip of water between home and home being taken by force.  The fear that all is lost.

Now, I want you to watch another video.  Warning: this is not a nice video, and although it is gory, gratuitous and violent, it is also true.

Here's the thing about the second video that is hard to believe: this is what winning looks like.  It looks like blood and death and fear and sacrifice and deep belief that evil has to be overcome, even if it kills you.  D-Day is still taught in every school in the world as a turning point.  It was the day when the Allies started to loose Germany's stranglehold on Europe.  The beach where we started winning is 100 miles from where I sit, and yet it is still hard to fathom, hard to grasp.

I'm not that old, so maybe with another 33 years and 51 weeks of life experience, I may change my mind, but I don't think I probably will.  Having a serious mental illness has given me some perspective that maybe age won't.  Some of the hardest, most terrible moments of my life have also been the most victorious.  They didn't look like earning a gold medal or getting a trophy or getting 1st place at the State Spelling Competition (which stands as probably the only thing I've legitimately won).  Yes, those things require hard work, but they don't require much personal sacrifice or internal change.

On the whole, winning is seen as something that elite athletes or rich people or Charlie Sheen do.  It's not something that people do on a daily basis or a pinnacle reached after decades of striving.

Winning doesn't look like winning.  In fact, it looks a hell of a lot like being defeated over and over again and getting back up for more.

I heard a great interview by a woman who has been fighting for equal pay for women since 1936. And before that, her mother did. She said that her mother cried on the day women were given the right to vote.  Two people just living ordinary lives and waiting for a tick in the win column for nearly 100 years.

There are people who I think will never change, situations that will never improve, injustices too great to be overcome and powers too high to be challenged. But then, something happens and small victories emerge.

I thought that a massive demonstration by white nationalists would symbolize the beginning of an era where the ugliness of hatred became run-of-the-mill, but instead, I saw FOUR people post that they would not stand for it.  Not the people I expected either. People who "stay out of politics" or who make a point of saying they are colorblind or who defend racist stereotypes as "just a joke-lighten up"!

Now four people may not seem like a lot, but that is four more than none.  It is a victory, even if the hatred seems bigger tomorrow. And it didn't even take a day.  Just under that video of Usain Bolt is a comment about why Africans shouldn't be allowed to "take all the places that a real American could use". The implication of course being that Justin Gatlin isn't a real American simply because he was born black.  But I will not look at the number of likes it got. I will look at the people who are changing, who are clawing back the occupation of inequality one thought at a time. I truly believe that goodness and inequality aren't a pipedream but a plan, being executed by the little guys and fought every day of our lives.

It is winning, even if it looks like losing.


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