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Both political parties, it seems, have let us down.

The most spectacular letdown has been on the Republican side, which is led by a twice-impeached, one-term, megalomaniacal former president. But though President Joe Biden has higher approval ratings than former President Donald Trump ever did, they are not so high by historical standards. The Republicans may never live down the seditious riots of Jan. 6, but now Democrats face a newly porous border and a poor jobs report. As a famous fictional love-sick teenager once said: “A pox on both your houses.”

Since our septuagenarian political leaders — Biden, Trump, Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi — are not generally venerated, perhaps we can turn to some younger folks for inspiration. My suggestion: the Marshall University men’s soccer team.

Patience is the first lesson. American fans new to the game were restless — the whole regular game period was played with no score! If this were American football the score would likely be in the low double digits; if basketball, in higher double digits. Zero. Zero. Preposterous!

After (im)patience, we became aware of athleticism. The game requires ceaseless running up and down the field, and there are few substitutions. In football or baseball, the offense and defense periodically stand down — no such respite for soccer players.

Then it dawned on the more perceptive watchers that the team was unusually international or inclusive. Young men from around the world, including some “sh*thole” countries, participated. And before the men’s game could start, there was an equally riveting women’s championship game — no co-ed teams, but clear gender equality nonetheless.

Finally, a lesson taught by all sports events: Every game has a winner and loser, but there are no victims. Those who lost were — as the camera briefly showed — devastated. In fact the Marshall opponents were favored as the commentators made clear — the MU victory was an upset. This time MU won, but they were well aware they might have lost. This time the opponents lost, but they surely will not give up playing their best when next season rolls around.

This healthy “no victim” attitude is, however, not now common. Used to be racial victims were Black (African American), but now whites (European Americans) can apparently wear the mantle of victimhood, and even more recently Asian Americans have joined the group — so, virtually all of us are victims! Similarly, women were seen are victimized by men (in the lifetime of our oldest citizens, women couldn’t vote); well, sorry sisters, but men can now also inhabit the victimhood house. Are LGBTQ+ victims? Maybe so, but so now are straights.

Yes, both political parties are peddling victimhood to their base (pun intended) constituencies, and this explains much of our self-inflicted polarization.

If you feel victimized, perhaps an athletic pursuit would help: jogging, volleyball, bowling … whatever. And make sure to be inclusive — with respect to both your peers and your opponents — in your athletic pursuits. Living a more athletic life will help you be more patient when seductive political hucksters try to woo you into self-pity.

Romeo was right to curse both the Montagues and the Capulets, who together caused his eventual suicide. But if we let clever manipulators create and increase our pain, then we, too, are at fault.

John Palmer, Ph.D., is a registered independent voter and non-victim living in Huntington.

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