By Ken Trainor
As Connecticut Governor Wilbur Cross said in his famous 1936 Thanksgiving proclamation 80 years ago this November, "Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind, and the frost gives a tang to the air, and the dusk falls early, and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us, by a way we did not know, to the end of another year."
If ever it could be said of a year that we came to the end of it by a way we did not know, this would be the year.
The only silver lining in my mother's death last December is that she didn't have to endure the Great American Electoral Catastrophe of 2016, which would have sent her to her grave believing the country she loved had gone completely mad.
Which, of course, it has. Well, a quarter of it anyway. Just enough, as it turns out, to send us over the brink.
She would have thoroughly enjoyed the Cubs' World Series victory, however. None of us, I suspect, ever thought we would live long enough to witness such an epic event, and, given what transpired six days later, it's hard not to see the Cubs' victory as the cosmic concussion that set off the Apocalypse.
Whatever the downside, the Cubs won the series and they won it the hard way, turning the W on their battle flag from a perpetual plea ("Win!") to a triumphant "Won!"
You win some and lose some, which made 2016 just like every other year — only more so.
Winning and losing was pretty much the meme of the year. The Cubs won it all, ending their historic World Series drought at 108, and Cleveland lost, extending their drought to 68. Except Cleveland also won, the Cavaliers rebounding from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals this past June, ending the longest major sports championship drought (51 years).
A lot of winning (and losing) took place in Brazil this summer. Rio de Janeiro won by hosting the Olympic Games when many doubted they could pull it off. The Russians lost most of their Olympic team because of cheating, but their hackers helped win the American election for Vladimir Putin, proving that sometimes cheaters do win — or at least have the last laugh.
Tweet won (the system was rigged — in his favor), but he lost the respect of anyone still capable of making a rational character judgment. Barack and Michelle Obama, meanwhile, won our regard by giving a tutorial on character, grace and integrity as their second term draws to a close. Maybe Lord Tweet and Lady Plagiarism will learn something from them.
There are many ways to win and lose. Over the years I've lost much that I needed to — anger mostly (though not completely) and other forms of emotional negativity. Winning, I've learned, often looks like losing at first. And the best things are hard-won. Grandfathering, for instance. I lost sleep and a good portion of my weekends for the first couple of years to babysit the boys. What the three of us won is a bond that can be built only by being there.
The Cubs put themselves and their fans through a lot of losing in order to build this year's remarkable team, and the fans' happiness is greater for all those years of futility.
Unfortunately, this country is currently mired in a "win-lose" mindset, which is why the "I win-you lose" candidate won. The "win-win" candidate lost, but in the long run win-win will win — just as soon as we put a functioning democracy in place and change our national default setting from "either-or" (inequality) to "both-and" (inclusivity).
Inclusiveness will win because it must, and always has, throughout our history (which is why I strongly recommend reading Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars – Even When They Lose Elections by Stephen Prothero. It will provide the thing needed most following this election: historical perspective.)
The book underscores the fact that we are on our way to becoming a more inclusive people and creating a more inclusive world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Believing it will happen is the catalyst that makes perseverance possible, that makes patience possible, that in the long run makes progress possible.
Christmas is the story of a divine spark erupting in a dark world, the same spark that erupts with every birth — which feeds our belief that we will win, that we are, in fact, winning, even when it looks like we're losing. There is simply too much goodness in the world. It is insurmountable. The course is set, the outcome decided.
The only thing to be determined is how long it will take for the arc of the universe to finish bending toward justice (for all). At the moment, it looks as if that will take … somewhat longer.
"As my suffering mounted," said Martin Luther King Jr., "I realized there were two ways I could respond to my situation: either react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course."
We move forward, hand in hand, stronger together, a creative force, knowing only that we will win — all of us — by a way we did not know.
Answer Book 2019
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