By Tom Rodriguez
Americans have a belief that life ought to be full of pleasures and rewards of all kinds, and that if you can just get into the game your life can be very enjoyable. Unfortunately, millions of Americans never get into the game because something is at work in the American psyche that makes it unable to come to grips with social problems. What that “something” is, is not easily discernible but my gut tells me that the answers lie in this nation’s obsession with winning.
Americans love to win. Many would even say that they have to win and will try to do so whatever the cost in time, energy, and money. We have become a society of contestants and pursue “fame” through an endless array of contests too numerous and ridiculous to list.
In examining our political system, for example, it doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out that too many political aspirants will say and do almost anything to win their elections. Predictably, special interest groups abound and regularly attempt to influence candidates with large sums of money. And, sad as it may be, they succeed far too often.
The consequences of accepting such contributions are, of course, well-documented in our recent political history and today remain very dangerous to good government.
Discouragingly, as long as politicians are compelled to win elections, they will be too busy attending banquets, giving speeches, having fund raisers, and compromising their positions on just about everything. It also means that they won’t devote the time and energy needed to analyze, formulate, and legislate remedies to our increasingly complex social and economic problems. Undeniably, American politics are hopelessly trapped in a vicious political system rooted at the very core of how this nation evolved.
In the 1960s and 1970s, we paid a high price for our obsession with winning. We lost far too many American lives in Vietnam trying to win an unwinnable war. Then our president, Richard Nixon, resigned in disgrace for coveting winning too much. And now we are engaged in a presidential race that has divided this country as never before, mainly because we have a president who is obsessed with winning and will do anything to win, no matter what unethical and outrageous things he has to do in order to win reelection.
On television, the media saturates us with mindless game shows and absurd athletic events, all so people can win at something. On the internet, our children are exposed to so many things that would have shocked our parents, to include sex, politics, ways to make money, music videos with raw language, etc. Predictably, our crime rate has reached epic proportions as the “have nots” demand their “share of the prize.” No one wants to be left out of the party, and won’t be, whatever it costs.
Many will argue that all is well in America and that it has been our “win ethic” that has made our nation great. I don’t disagree with that but I do suggest that much has changed in our country in the first 20 years of our new century. Today, winning has become devalued and our ethical standards might as well not exist because no one pays attention to them.
To ever right America again, we must go back to the beginning. Parents must learn to say “no” more often and stop buying conformance simply because they can afford it. They must once again lead by example rather than defer the development of their children’s minds to television and the internet. They must exercise more control and judgment over what their children see, hear and read.
In politics, our elected leaders must begin to make some of those hard decisions without regard to their political fortunes, as much as that is possible.
These are but some of the tremendous challenges that lay immediately ahead of us. Whether we are able to overcome those challenges is questionable, that we must try is not. Ultimately, our success may determine whether our American Republic, and our way of life, will ever again exist the way our forefathers intended it to.