Thursday, January 20, 2011

Here America, have a trophy!

You're on the internet, surely you've gotten an email forward, or saw someone post on Facebook, some forward that talks about how America needs to get "tough." Whether it's complaining about welfare, taxes, or kids, there's no shortage of this stuff making the rounds online. One in particular sticks out to me, I even saw it posted on the wall of a sandwich shop when I was eating lunch last week. I'm not going to post the full thing, because it's preachy nonsense that makes me wretch, but you've probably seen it, it's usually falsely attributed to Bill Gates and is usually titled as "Rules Kids Won't Learn in School." It's actually from a book written in 1996 by a guy named Charles Sykes, but it's all about how "kids today" suck because they have healthy self-esteem.

Now I'm not going to rant in defense of the precious little snowflakes, I just bring it up so you know what I'm talking about. You've seen the forwards: "life isn't fair, get used to it," "I can't believe kids get trophies for everything nowadays," "life doesn't have summer break," blah blah blah. And of course, this shit gets passed around like the plague, usually it comes to your inbox as "Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: AMEN!!!!!!!1"

Yeah! Kids have it too easy, they need to learn life isn't fair! Games have winners and losers and only winners get trophies! Time to get tough, America.

Except it's not. People love to cheerlead this kind of stuff, but the minute you try to talk tough to an American adult, you get run out of town. Jimmy Carter told us to put on a sweater, don't be wasteful and don't be driven by consumerism. Of course, America responded to this by electing Mr. Sunny, Ronald Reagan... who drove the country further into the ditch and created the blueprint for the modern day Republican party... who drove the country off a cliff. How dare anyone in power tell us to be responsible and act like an adult? Screw you, I'm buying a Hummer!

Barack Obama came under similar criticism for his views on American exceptionalism. When asked, he replied, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." A perfectly reasonable, logical and mature explanation, of course idiots like Newt Gingrich took this as the opportunity to label Obama a "Kenyan, socialist, anti-colonial, secularist, (insert buzzword here)," etc. He might even be an Orc too, Newt's not sure. But that's the attitude of the right, if you don't believe America is the greatest country on the planet, if you don't believe that God himself drew lines on a map, pointed to America and said "that one's my favorite," then you're a dirty pinko socialist Nazi.

But yes, children who get trophies just for playing, that's the problem. In reality, the trophy thing isn't that big of a deal, because if they stick with the sport (or any other activity), many of them will soon be forced to sacrifice their childhoods in favor of meaningless structure and pressuring parents who want to make up for their own failures vicariously through the scholastic and athletic achievements of their children.

But that's another rant for another day. Point is, kids will soon learn the harsh realities of winning and losing through a variety of channels, but Americans in general who need a never-ending stream of smoke blown up their ass from their elected leaders? We're the people who need a trophy for everything. We rank 36th in the world in life expectancy (below Costa Rica and Cuba, slightly above Kuwait), we rank 37th in overall health care coverage, we rank 21st in literacy rates, 34th in math and science education, 33rd in infant mortality, and the middle class has evaporated... but hey, WE'RE #1!

If an American politician, someone with the ability to actually improve these statistics, pointed out those facts, they wouldn't even be elected Mayor of Wasilla. "How dare you?! America is the greatest country in the world!" usually said by someone who's never even left the county, let alone the country. "Love it or leave it, man!" usually said by someone with no counterpoint.

American exceptionalism of the Newt Gingrich variety is what got us into this mess. We were too arrogant, too naive and too distracted to notice the country crumbling all around us. It's the point people try to make with the non-issue of kids getting participation trophies, that it'll give them over-inflated self-esteem and they'll be in for a real shock when it's time to enter the real world and everything isn't handed to them. Well America, it's time to enter the real world.

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