Alan Zendell, November 9, 2020
If you’ve ever been a parent or a child you know how important it is to learn how to win and lose. When kids play team sports, we teach them to high five every member of the other team after a game, win or lose. We discourage taunting by the winners and crying by the losers. We permit celebrations in the end zone after a touchdown or at home plate after a grand slam, but we penalize players who celebrate too hard or too long or too distastefully.
Have you watched two siblings playing a game recently? At first, the older one wins, and you catch her teasing her little brother. You give them both hugs and ask the winner if winning feels good. When she says “yes” you ask if making her brother feel bad made winning feel better. At first, she doesn’t understand the question but watching him wipe away his tears, she finally gets it.
Then you ask your son if it felt bad to lose. He nods, trying to keep from crying again, and you ask him if throwing a tantrum made him feel better. His eyes flare as if he’s about to start again but you hug him harder, and he figures it out too.
A few years later, your daughter makes her high school basketball team. In a key playoff game, her team trails by a point with seconds to go. She races for the basket and sinks a layup to win the game only to be called for a charging foul for crashing into a defender. The horn sounds. They lose. You see an instant of rage and disappointment cloud her face, and then she reaches down and helps the girl she knocked over to her feet. You beam inside. You’ve done your job well.
My guess is that Joe Biden’s parents were a lot like you. In a long life of alternating successes and tragedies, wins and losses, he has never failed to act with grace. When he lost he fell back on his faith and his values and picked himself up again. When he won he reached out, no matter how grueling the battle was. If he believes in grudges, you’d never know it from watching him. Not coincidentally, that’s how true statesmen behave in a free society.
Consider his opponent, the current president (I can’t make myself say his name today.) When he wins he exaggerates his victory and brags about what losers his opponents are, as he begins to purge his ranks of people who were not sufficiently obeisant. He crows incessantly about how he vanquished his opponent, never giving a thought to adjusting his tone from the venomous hatred he routinely spews. And when he loses? That’s when that five-year-old who could never be taught how to behave comes out. He whines, he accuses everyone else of cheating, he calls foul at every turn. And when the time comes to retreat, he does so like the Nazis leaving Italy after the Allies defeated them in 1943, burning and destroying everything in their wake, whether it had military value or not, just for spite.
His niece, Mary, a PhD psychologist, and his sister, Maryanne, a retired federal appellate judge, warned us he would behave this way. “He has no principles,” Maryanne told us. “He has never been loved,” Mary told us. “He only cares about himself,” everyone who ever knew him told us. The man who based all of his hateful rhetoric on the phrase, “Make America Great Again,” shows us every day how little regard he has for us. Yes, I know, 70,000,000 of those people he couldn’t care less about voted for him last week. I can’t explain that. I expect it will be debated by historians for the rest of this century.
And now, as we come to the end of what is the most difficult year most of us have ever faced, when most of us have done our best to follow the rules and did our duty to assure that our votes counted, when it’s time to melt our swords into plowshares, Donald *#*#* (I still can’t say it) would rather throw his infantile tantrum. He is being enabled by his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who may have once possessed a shred of integrity, and by Jared Kushner, whose real estate companies are engaged in attempting to evict people from their homes after the pandemic bankrupted them.
That is what currently inhabits the White House. I hope the transition cleaning staff has a ton of disinfectant left.