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Essay: "Winners and Losers"

by Larry Matthew Puckett
Losers Forever... Until.....

One of the most profound experiences of my life involved shoes.

In 1994 I went to Washington DC on a school trip. I was in the 11th grade. We saw all the major tourist spots; the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol, the White House, etc. We also saw the Smithsonian and its huge museums. They have one called the Holocaust Museum. As part of the exhibit of World War II depravity they always have a huge case of shoes. These shoes were taken off Jewish prisoners before they were exterminated.

Ms. Greer was my history teacher during this trip. She taught me a great deal about World War II and sparked a lifelong interest in the subject. She even organized a school field trip to see the wonderfully provocative movie, Schindler's List (everyone should see this movie. If you have not, it's about a wealthy industrialist who tried to save many Jews from the hands of the Nazis).

But it was not until I stood before that display case of those shoes that I got one of those slap-you-in-the-face comprehensions. Shoes! Shoes that seem so inconsequential in and of them brought an understanding that movies, pictures, books, and even Ms. Greer could not.

Schindler's List was a black and white movie that had one scene that involved a little girl with a pink coat on. The dramatic effect was undeniable, unavoidable. The same holds true for the way the shoes grabbed my sleepy subconscious and roughed it up a bit.

By winning World War II the Allies were able to stop the Holocaust. We were all winners in that respect. But we soon become losers once we forgot the terrible tragedy of that war. Ms. Greer asked at the beginning of the school year why we should study history. The paramount answer was to learn from other people's mistakes.

To learn. That's a verb, an action. It's something you must constructively do. We cannot be a winner in any sense of the word until we learn to prevent atrocities like the Holocaust from happening again. In truth we have not learned as a society and can be nothing less than the grand losers of mankind. Holocausts occur every day of our lives and yet how many of them are you aware of?

Africa seems to have more than one Holocaust going on at one time. AIDS kills millions of Africans every year and yet there is at best a surface familiarity with it. Our morality should be screaming in outrage that our fellow human beings are suffering so. Add to the misery by recognizing Africa's abject poverty and the massacres in the Darfur province of Sudan. Africa's misery does not stop there.

Look closer to home and we see Holocausts occurring on our soil everyday. The murder rate in this county is astronomical, and it seems to catch little and fleeting interest. That rate doesn't take into account the millions of abortions performed here every year. Legal or not legal we shouldn't believe that there should be more. I doubt anyone, for or against, feels that it is good for us.

Holocausts don't have to deal solely with people dying. We have an educational holocaust that ought to piss people off. But no, there is little complaint; little that lasts longer than the nightly news program. An education is a lifelong endeavor. It should be comprehensive and inspiring during the formative years of our children. That will, in turn, hopefully foster a genuine desire to learn throughout one's life.

During World War II the Nazis burned books; in our country we let them collect dust. If they are not being used and learned from the result is the same.

Leaving books in the dust people race to other mediums, i.e. television. There are some really great programs out there, but they aren't aired during prime time, the time of optimum viewing. How informative, how educational is our programming when the story of the day is why Jen and Brad broke up or whether Britney's breasts are real.

Are people too stupid to care? Are they so clueless that they can't desire the real issues in life.

Sadly, the answer for both is an emphatic YES. Our politicians are our representatives. They stand for our beliefs, our worldviews (well they're supposed to anyway). There is a representational holocaust in our country. If politicians represent who we are then they are every citizen. Sure looks like a criminal; a slick, sleazy, shyster. That's why our political system is breeding like rabbits. Why is it now the norm for there to be criminal investigators for so many politicians? How could we let our system lose so much esteem?

We will be winners when we can stand proud with out knowledge in our head, courage in our heart, and morality as our standard. We will be winners when "the government of the people, by the people, for the people," means exactly that. When we take the following quotations to heart and actually, fervently, passionately, believe in them:

"If an activity is not grounded in 'to love' and 'to learn' it does not have any value" (Anne Rice). "At his best, man is the noblest of all animals, separated from law and justice, he is the worst"(Aristotle).

Until we do these things as a society we will be forever losers.

-Larry Matthew Puckett