The Primary Addiction


by Sam Winston

When I say that I've got an addiction, it's not the German chocolate, the good beer, or the endless variety of freshly baked bread here. It's the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

No matter how many articles, blogs, video clips and op-ed essays I read and watch, I can't get enough. It doesn't matter how silly the press, the pollsters, and the entire circus of overconsumption seems, I read on. And although I already decided who am I voting for about a month ago, I continue to scour the internet compulsively every morning.

Why? Because like the rest of America, I'm dying to see who is going to win. There is nothing more American than a good fight. A battle. A contest. A competition. I don't want to just see who wins. I want to inject myself into the competition and say, "I'm going to win too!"

I suppose that I've justified my overconsumption until now for a number of reasons. I'm abroad so my access to information is limited. I'm a journalist so it's important for me to know what's going on. I'm an American and this is such an important time in our country, it's important that I make an educated decision with my vote.

But we know that's not why I watch. What you tell yourself is not why you watch, either. Of course it's not.

Competition is the golden rule of American life. We are simply obsessed with it.

The good grades, the competitive colleges, the good job, the nice car, the biggest house, the NFL, the Cold War, the war on drugs, the war on terror, the race for alternative energy, competing in a globalized world. It's how we define everything.

In Germany, competition is not necessarily synonymous with hard work, the cornerstone of American values though also a German one. One can work hard in Germany without having it defined as beating someone else in the grand competition of life. No one will say, however, that the German economy, the world's leader in exports despite a serious lack of natural resources, does not benefit almost entirely from the virtues of its people.

The word "aggressive", the exact same word in German only pronounced slightly different, has extremely negative connotations in the German language. Growing up in America, you're encouraged to be aggressive at just about every turn.

So as I split my time watching NFL playoff highlights and the latest presidential debate clips, watching analysts break down film, review poll numbers, praise offensive coordinators and campaign strategists, I'm locked in to see who wins. It's all about the competition.

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