“Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser!” These are the words spat out like machine gun bullets by actor George C. Scott in the bio movie Patton. The declaration is part of a motivational speech delivered by the general to his soldiers. And no matter how we modern Americans try to position ourselves into “politically correct” cocoons, we still agree with him. Take for example, the typical political election. The moment the results are announced, the loser seems to be automatically beamed – Star Trek-style – into a dark parallel universe. You may know that Franklin Roosevelt was elected to the Presidency in ’32, and re-elected in ‘35, ‘40, and ‘44. But can you name three (or even one) of his four opponents? Don’t feel bad; not many can. After all, they were losers.
A recent news story brought the truth of our winner fixation sharply to light. The so-called “blogosphere” has been abuzz with the tale of a young New Zealand man’s quest to find a special lady. His story is practically a checklist of stereotypical romantic elements. He met the lady –named ‘Katie’ – last New Year’s Eve. He found her on a Hong Kong sidewalk (Don’t we enjoy exotic locales in our love stories?) crying because she had been separated from the friends with whom she was traveling. He cheered her up with his corny sense of humor (think Jimmy Stewart), and after an impromptu night of drinking and dancing the couple parted at 6:00 a.m. when the young woman reconnected with her group. She allegedly swept away into the sunrise, leaving the man with a wisp of a hint that she lived in D.C., and a teasing challenge to “find me.” Truly a Cinderella moment!
But as the immortal Bard would say, there’s the rub. The young man actually did what the lady invited him to do, and he did it in the way that young people do things today: through social media. Armed with a picture he had taken of his potential paramour (instead of a glass slipper) he launched a Facebook call to arms that won him thousands of followers. They made a crusade of locating his illusive lady. Then finally she was found! (The romantic plot line was rising to a giddy crescendo.) But just as it appeared that a memorable moment was about to be added to the annals of whirlwind romance, a cosmic lever was suddenly yanked to the OFF position. The lady, electronically deluged by self-appointed laborers of love, shut down all of her internet social connections.
The media jumped on the story, advancing the theme that here was a lady who obviously didn’t want to be found. Bloggers ripped on the New Zealander, contending that in the space of a year, the woman might have married or even had a child. How strangely embarrassing the young man’s quest had been, they implied, an almost sick instance of obviously unrequited passion. “Maybe,” asserted one judgmental blogger, a year is “just enough time for some lonely guy to work himself into a delusional fantasy that she’s waiting for him on the other side.”
Why is the New Zealander being viewed as delusional? Do we think it’s delusional when a man proposes to his girlfriend on national TV or in the middle of a professional sports event? As the man kneels before the object of his love, and grins boyishly upward, taking out the little box, doesn’t the audience exhale intoxicated ooooohs and ahhhhhhs? Of course it does. So what’s the difference? In this case the lady said no. If ‘Katie’ had gushed to reporters about how happy she was to be found; if shots of the happy couple surrounded by their electronic support team abounded, the critics would be pointing their figurative cannons elsewhere. To expand on Patton, let us agree that, for better or worse, it isn’t just Americans who love winners; it’s people in general. And exploring the consequences of this fact requires more space than we have here. Much more.