When I was in the fifth grade, some buddies and I had a team that competed in a Saturday morning bowling league. We called ourselves the Whips, and every Saturday morning when we went to the lanes, we went in style.
While all the other teams distinguished themselves by wearing similarly colored tee shirts (you know, all the kids on the Reds team would wear red shirts, kids on the Blues would wear blue), the Whips would arrive at the Summit Lanes decked out in our snappy black and white bowling shirts with our team name impressively emblazoned across the backs in chain stitch embroidery. Our individual names were embroidered on the left breast. We looked sharp.
If looks could win tournaments, the Whips would have swept the league in a walk. Unfortunately, while we had the look and swagger of champions, we had the bowling skills of creatures without opposable thumbs. Fact is, when it came to knocking down pins, we weren’t worth a damn.
The Whips escaped the embarrassment of finishing last in a league of eight teams only by a last minute stroke of luck. A team called the Smokies was stricken with the flu and forfeited every game in the season-ending tournament, thus catapulting the Whips into seventh place.
The good news for us was that our miserable record didn’t tarnish our image among our peers. Not in the least. The Whips remained the most admired team in the league because of those stylish shirts.
Americans, even eleven-year-old American bowlers, have always been willing to believe that what looks good is good, and what looks best must be the best. In almost every case, perception outperforms substance in the American mind.
Consider the following:
“America is the greatest nation on earth."
“Our enemies hate us because they hate our freedoms."
“God is on America's side."
“We're making America great again."
You’ve heard that stuff a gazillion times, right? Slogans like those have been woven together to make up the country’s game day uniform for a long as I can remember. America has been showing up to play in its flashy red, white and blue dazzle-cloth jersey since well before the Whips got the idea for our bowling shirts.
The country looks sharp as long as your eyes are focused on the bright colors and reflective cloth. Just don’t look at the score. If you look at the score, however, things don’t look quite so rosy.
Who dares say that the emperor has no clothes? I’ve got some better questions…
In what kind of country can a serious debate arise as to whether health care is a basic human right?
What kind of country strips basic health care away from its poorest citizens to finance a whopping tax cut for billionaires?
What kind of country spends 6 trillion dollars to conduct aimless and unending wars, in which young American men and women courageously fight and die, while its own citizens wither and fall from poverty and neglect? All for the enrichment of the already obscenely rich.
What kind of country pays drug enhanced athletes 20 million dollar salaries while those who teach its children to read and write struggle to meet basic expenses?
What kind of country worships morally depraved entertainers, rewarding them with unimaginable wealth for their outrageous behavior, while senior citizens are forced to choose between needed prescription drugs and food.
What kind of country chooses as its leader a foul-mouthed philanderer, a common con-artist distinguished only by his meanness of spirit and astonishing capacity to lie? It must have been those slick ten thousand dollar bespoke suits.
I really liked those bowling shirts, and I was proud to be a Whip. The other Whips and I even wore the shirts to school. People noticed. It felt great to be the greatest. —Prentice