Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, February 08, 2010

Super Bowl 

Personally, I think the best place in Beijing to see the Super Bowl is the Goose and Duck Pub. Sunday afternoon in the States is Monday morning in Beijing. Live feed from ESPN. Game starts at 7 am, and breakfast is on the house. When I got there, they were roasting a pig for the feed after the game, but I didn't stay for that. Not much of a sports fan, but I usually do take in the Super Bowl. I generally go online the night before to find out who the teams are so that I am not totally ignorant, but beyond that, I really don't put that much effort into it.

The first thing I noticed this morning was the extensive coverage of the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. I didn't know the name of the New Orleans quarterback until sometime in the third quarter. Most of the people I talked to thought Indianapolis would take it, but most of the people I talked to also said their sympathies were with the Saints ("Does Peyton really need another one?"). And Peyton Manning, quarterback of Indianapolis, was born and raised in New Orleans. Ironic.

It really is quite a show. And viewed from the perspective of history, the amount of money that is poured into this once a year show is mind boggling. But there is something about the whole thing that troubles me. The Americans have become very good at winning football games, but they can't win a war to save their lives.

In Ancient times, athletic events existed for the purpose of training warriors. But in a morally exhausted society like America, the athletic event has become the war. It is the grand event that everybody watches and everybody celebrates, because we are simply not capable anymore of winning real wars.

The Constitution of the United States stipulates that wars must be declared by Congress. The President does not have the authority to enter into war on his own. Anybody remember the last time the Congress of the United States declared war on another country? It was World War II. Anybody remember the last time any country signed documents of surrender to the United States? Again, World War II. Coincidence? I don't think so. It's fitting, really. No country deserves to win a war that it doesn't have the guts to declare.

In 1951, after he had been fired from Korea for insisting on victory in a war the Americans had decided they didn't want to win, General MacArthur gave his farewell address to Congress, in which he said the following:We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.Can you imagine a modern American military leader making that kind of statement? It's a different America now. Wars aren't supposed to be won.

But it's different with football. In football, it is still acceptable to defeat the other guy. Statements like "there is no substitute for victory" would be perfectly acceptable in a football game. But it got MacArthur in a lot of trouble. Cost him his job. So the Americans can't win wars anymore. They have to settle for winning preliminary training exercises. With lots of fanfare and a big show. Oh well. Might as well have fun while the ship is going down.

After the Super Bowl, I stopped by the Bookworm, since it is pretty close to the subway station near the Goose and Duck. Books there are expensive, because they are mostly imported. I didn't have that much money with me, and I wasn't about to go to an ATM and draw out more money just to buy something that looked interesting.

But it's never a good idea to leave a bookstore empty handed. So I decided to play a game I sometimes employ for moments like this (usually at used book sales). I decided to match the book to the spending limit rather than the other way around. Tough challenge in this case, because the prices for books I was looking at were running about twice what I had in my pocket. So I wasn't having much luck. I was about to give up and resign myself to a life of ignorance and sorrow, when I found it. The Wiles of War 36 Military Strategies from Ancient China. It was tucked behind another book. But the price was right. I think that's because the edition I bought was published by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing, so it is not imported.

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