Monday, February 29, 2016

Every Knee Shall Bend and Every Tongue Confess

There's an old joke, which I'll de-ethnicize here: A socialist speaker asks his audience rhetorically, "Brothers, is not one man as good as another?" Someone pipes up, "Yes, and a damn sight better, too!"

Donald Trump won his third primary in a row, in Nevada this time.  (He's since added a fourth.)  He exulted to his supporters that "We won ... 46 percent with the Hispanics, 46 percent, number one with Hispanics. I’m really happy about that."  Why he should be happy about winning the support of people he denigrates as rapists and drug traffickers I'm not sure, but more to the point, Hispanics make up about 8 percent of Nevada voters.

Anyway, I began this post a few days ago, when Trump's latest victory underscored my reaction to this meme, posted early in the day by a friend and former co-worker.

Not that I'm happy about it, but as a matter of simple fact, three consecutive primary victories make him a "winner."  It's perfectly legitimate to point out his past failures, especially his business failures and bankruptcies, which would seem to bode ill for giving him any kind of oversight over the economy, but failures often turn themselves around.

The meme ticked me off, though, because I smelled that noxious and toxic self-help sense of "winner" in it, according to which people are divided into sheep and goats, winners and losers, Madonnas and whores, by nature.  It occurred to me that "loser" tends to function as a gender-neutral substitute for "faggot," used to signify "weak ass guys," "kneelers.  Those who take the knee.  Who serve a master willingly," and so on.  If you lose, you're a faggot, or you would have won.  If you lose even once, you're a loser.  And if you win -- ah, you're a winner forever; at least until you lose.

Alfie Kohn wrote about the destructive consequences of competition in No Contest, quoting (page 110) a sports psychologist who wrote:
... following a failure in competition the poor competitor is usually relaxed, in good spirits, even talkative.  In contrast the good competitor who has had a bad day is difficult to live with.  He becomes temporarily a bitter, morose, and sometimes unpleasant person to live with.
Sometimes in public.  The thirty-first anniversary of that tantrum was commemorated by quite a few people I know on Facebook last week.  Now, there's a winner for you, and I know that a lot of my liberal friends bend the knee at the altar of Bob Knight.

The friend who posted the Trump meme protested, first, that she hadn't called him a faggot (trivially true), and second, that she's not judgmental of anyone -- except Donald Trump.  So why make an exception?  Of course, I'm fine with being judgmental, but one must do it responsibly.  Maybe she'll improve with practice.