Competition.

Twenty years ago, back when I was the Program Director of a small Top 40 radio station, I used to dread “book months”. These book months were the ratings period for radio, the timeframe when select listeners would write down what radio stations they listened to, how often they listened and for how long they listened. It was during these times that we would formulate promotions that would dazzle listeners, for example, nearly impossible to win $100,000 giveaways, free trips to New York to see “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and chances to win vacuum cleaners for Mom as a gift for Mother’s Day. We knew how to impress.

The ultimate reason for dazzling the listener was to generate more ratings during book months, which would then in turn make our little radio station more appealing to ad buyers. This, in turn, would give us more commercials to play, causing us to drop more songs per hour but would guarantee we would have enough revenue coming in to paint the studio in gaudy blues and golds, fulfill payroll requirements and allow us to do nifty things like put up billboards to remind folks how great the radio station was. 

One of the many things I didn’t like about this process was the sense of competition. We were one of two Top 40 radio stations in the area and I was told to keep the radio station aggressive. Push the limits with music, reach fringe listeners if possible and more importantly tell them how bad the other radio station was. We had to fight, Fight, FIGHT our way to the top for that ad revenue. The trouble was, the other radio station, Kiss 102, had a bunch of great ideas, had a good team for the most part and played the same music we did. Heck, the Program Director of Kiss 102 was a friend of mine. We had worked together at another station. We “grew up” together in radio. But I had to make the Mr. Voice say clever, snarky things about them all in the name of promotion.

Competition. Why?

I can’t help but roll my eyes when people start chanting and screeching and carrying on about the United States of America being the Greatest Nation on Earth. Now, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here. I believe that as an American citizen that I’ve got it pretty good. The water is clean, the air is breathable, I can get food for myself with the utmost of ease and I feel mostly safe. I can conduct my life as I see fit, for the most part, without interference, censorship or fear of being killed for just being me. And as an American, I believe that the opportunities that I am afforded should be available to anyone in the world that is willing to come here, work hard, be true, be honest and stand shoulder to shoulder with me as an American citizen. Honestly, I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, mauve or drink vodka for breakfast.

We just need to humble about it.

A good portion of the American populace gets off on war. We thrive of competition. Video games, movies, television shows, all of it is about strife. Reality shows are about discord. We are adrenaline junkies and we are not happy unless there’s a threat of a zombie attacking us at any moment. Bad guys lurk everywhere, even if we have to remind you that there’s an impossibly small chance that you’re going to have a bad guy come after you at any given moment. We build huge stadiums next to overcrowded high schools that are falling down, just so we can scream and make other noises that our school is the best at (insert sport here). Apps on our little technological wonders of communication (smartphones) match us up against strangers when we do something as simple as take a morning walk. We earn points, likes, stars, hearts, retweets and shares to stoke our ego. You, too, can go viral!

I often wonder what it is like to live somewhere where folks have more security in themselves. Where they don’t need to be told how great they are at every given turn. Where there are no trophies for participation. Where they don’t need to be constantly reminded that they live in the greatest country on the planet. What is that like? Does it still exist?

Last night I watched Donald Trump give his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. His speech was filled with many buzzwords, a bunch of catch phrases and a whole lot of sound bites that will be perfect for the news burps that are designed for the average American with the attention span of a gnat. His name was projected in outrageously gold letters, his skin had a strikingly similar hue and his words, while plentiful, struck hollow. Apparently there’s a lot he’s going to do as President, right from Day One, but no one has a clue as to how he’s going to accomplish this, what with the three branches of the United States government and whatnot. There was much praise, USUALLY IN CAPS, about how great his speech was, especially because he uttered the letters, L-G-B-T-Q.  He is going to keep the gay folks safe. However, if the GOP Platform is realized, we can’t get married, our jobs are always in jeopardy and God forbid we buy a cake in Indiana, but Trump is going to do right by us and be wonderful.  WONDERFUL!

Please people, please calm down. And don’t get me started about that damn wall along the southern border.

Can we find our place back to humility? Can we go back to being the greatest country on the planet without constantly beating our chests screeching about it, wearing red, white and blue war paint on our faces and telling the rest of the world they suck? And can we start listening? Has substance given way to sound bites? Is there a chance that common sense will become common again?

Can we just do what we do, as best as we can, without screaming “oh my god look at me I’m awesome!” all the time?

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