Words with Enemies

words-with-friends-tileEverything I learned about life, I learned playing Scrabble with my Mom.

Not only was she determined and brilliant and patient and desperately kind, she was sometimes quite funny. If I was stumped, she’d say, “Just give it some time.” If my letters sucked, she’d shake the bag. “Drowning in vowels? Jump in here and swim for some consonants!” Sometimes she’d say, “Let’s see what you’ve got; let’s do it together. I’ll help you. Then you can help me.”

Every game with her and my three sisters was a lesson in friendly competition, in loving cooperation. I learned from her — and My very little sister — that the only real way to lose was to give up in frustration, was kicking the table and sending the letters flying. But this was no “everyone gets a trophy just for participating” sort of game. There was always a winner, and it was never me, not for years. Still, I kept playing, and when I finally won all on my own, she couldn’t have been more proud. And then we played again. And I lost.

I told someone just the other day how we used to play: how, although there was always a winner, we thought the real competition was getting the highest overall score — that the Total of All Our Efforts mattered the most. That Someone thought I was crazy; she truly believed that the only point of a game — every game — was to crush the competition and emerge victorious and alone.

How sad for her, and for all who live like her. For all who think like her. For all who vote like her. For people who never knew my mom.

A couple of days ago, America held an election. Less than half of the country voted. Then, thanks to the unfair nature of the Electoral College, less than half of the voters — let’s call them People Who Never Knew My Mom — kicked our national card table from below and chose a new president. It was a low blow, a hard kick; it sent the pieces of our lives flying. Some of these People Who Never Knew My Mom had recently been kicked out of the game for deplorable behavior. (Racism, Misogyny, Homophobia, Religious intolerance…) Others were hard-working folks who quite rightly felt left behind for years, felt like the Rest of us always won and they didn’t have a chance, because the game was rigged against them and no one seemed to care. And they weren’t wrong, but they were conned into voting for the very worst of the riggers. (Just sayin’.) They wanted to “drain the swamp”; they wanted change, and they voted for it. They voted anti-establishment in the primary, and anti-establishment in the general election. Except, not so much. The facts are that they voted Godzilla in to drain the swamp, but left the same old GOP gators guarding the plug. Still others — mostly white, financially secure, educated voters, let’s call them GOP Gators Who Never Met My Mom — voted for their interests and their interests alone; they clearly saw what Trump would do for them: maintain uncontrolled gun rights, lower their personal and business taxes (if they were rich enough), install Christian right-wingers in the court, gut social programs that THEY don’t need, and try to bleach our multi-hued nation just that much whiter by keeping the immigrants out.

We don’t yet know where all our letters will land, but it isn’t looking good. These people, my countrymen and women, think they have emerged victorious. But everybody lost.

They’ve had their tantrum, and Folks, it was a doozy. The world was watching, aghast and in disbelief, and we’re embarrassed for them and for ourselves. And we’re scared. And some of us are having tantrums of our own. Both sides are capable of bad things — deplorable things — for the sake of their idea of good. But we’ll pick up the pieces and play again. And this time let’s Remember it isn’t just a game, the world is watching, and millions — billions — of real lives hang in the balance. No one really stands alone and victorious, unless they stand on a pile of ruins.

As for the worst of us, we won’t let them ruin it for everyone.

If they think Deplorable Behavior will be fun for long, they’ve got some new words to learn. We all need to learn them. “Empathy” would be a good start: seven letters, you can spell it on your own. “Tolerance” and “Cooperation” would be good, too. Both are words that take more than one turn to accomplish, that take building on another’s word.

Seven years ago today, my mother died. I wish I could have played Words With Friends with her on Facebook. Fact is, I’ve had a few Words With Enemies on facebook lately and while I’m up to the challenge, I’d rather play Words With FRIENDS. There are millions of folks like me, and we’ll keep playing until all Americans, especially those hard-working folks who’ve been left out, are winning.

Well, almost all. All you Deplorables — you racists, misogynists, homophobes and religious extremists? Let me spell it out for you, metaphorically of course:

Go stand in what was once your nice, safe corner of the world with your blinders and your Deplorable Dunce Caps on, and think about what you’ve done. Because it isn’t Safe anymore. Beyond this place, there be dragons…

It’s too bad you never knew my Mom. Metaphorically.



12 responses

    1. Thank you Carol. Scroll down and meet Lou. Do you know Lou? He’s another writer.

  1. Unsettling times lie ahead for us all. That’s the cyclical nature of history. You can almost taste the discontent felt by working and middle classes all around the world. A big storm of social and cultural upheaval was coming our way anyway, irrespective of whether Trump won or lost. It just so happens an orange clown will be in the White House when it finally comes.

    1. David, I wish he were just an orange clown, but the damage to our social safety net, economy and environment could last decades or longer — and in the case of climate change legislation, could have permanent effect. Civil and reproductive rights will roll back to a shameful era in our history. And while we were due for an upheaval, the people doing the heaving have voted, for the most part, not only against the interests of world peace but against their own self-interests — once again. They are just too misinformed to know that. I’m not saying Hillary was a bright angel of perfect hope, a world-peace-bringing cuddly Grandma — not at all. But she wouldn’t have been played by Putin and others, via the strings of vanity and collossal ego.

  2. I didn’t unfriend Trump supporters during the election, but I’m doing it now.

    1. Hi, Amelia! I was all set to do that, when I found the person wasn’t actually my friend, but someone else’s! I’ve kept tabs on my number of friends. No one has unfriended me. I must not be trying hard enough. I’m quite disappointed. They probably just turned off all notifications and are blissfully unaware, now that I am out of sight and out of my mind…

  3. It gives me a fragment of hope that you, living in a place that seems to me like The Next Logical Step on this road, are still alive and blogging. Most days, I grumble about getting old…but right now, I’m muttering, “I’m glad I won’t be alive to see the worst of this.” If I had grandchildren, I’d be weeping for them, for the sons who will die in the wars and the daughters who will be raped and not avenged, for their grandchildren dying of climate change effects, never having seen a polar bear or coral reef or honeybee. Down with bigots; long live the honeybee.

    1. Lou, they say we should move to swing states and swing ’em! Who’s up for Florida? I hear Pine Island is really nice — know some good people there — and it shouldn’t be under water until you are six feet under!

    2. In fact, the first commenter here is that “good people on Pine Island” I was talking about. Lou, meet Carol Ervin. Very good wordsmith — and a pal o’ mine from way back in my Critique Circle Gold Star Critter Days. Of which I am most proud. Obviously.

  4. We’ve never met in person, and sadly I never met your mom, but my life has been better as a result of our electronic interactions. I feel lucky to be alive in a time where that has been possible.

    Like you the joy of games I’ve played come out of the fun itself. I have never really cared about winning or losing, just having a good time with good people.

    But I digress. Your words are nice, all lined up in an order which I am sure would have brought a smile to your mother’s lips. But the true gems are the feelings behind those words.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Scott for all your support over the years, ever since our Critique Circle days. You write beautifully. Have you ever submitted a story to… an antrollogy, for example? A story about a good troll and some very bad goats? Coming soon to an Amazon online bookstore near everyone? 🙂

      Having a good time with good people sure sounds nice right now!

  5. Hi, Lou. Send a link to your blog or books!

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