The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn: 1st, Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action … 2nd, Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: — the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations; … 3rd, Caution, not to make our moves too hastily… ~Benjamin Franklin~
“The Morals of Chess” (article) (1750).
I sat across from my opponent, coworker, and friend, Eric – amateur chess player, unofficial wine taster, and Imperial Kamado lemon chicken officionado. He was ranked among his peers – but for the life of me I can’t remember his ranking…1650? 1800? Suffice it to say he was a fine player and a fine friend.
We frequently went to various coffee shops, played chess, drank a coffee… This particular day, an unexpected thing happened.
He was busy practicing his various learned moves and maneuvers, trying out new traps and tricks… I was more of a ‘sure I’ll play you but remind me how the horsey guy moves again…’ player. Not necessarily the most realistic substitute opponent… I moved my queen… held my finger on her crown (to keep my move unofficial) looked up and down the board… A strange feeling came over me as I withdrew my hand, punched the clock, and avered confidently, “Check Mate.” Despite the fact that I was a complete amateur, I had, to the best of my ability, done exactly as Ben Franklin had advised. My feeble skills no match for his, my lack of experience obvious, the fact that I had somehow ascertained what he was attempting, circumnavigated his defenses, and, with the less than even odds that he wouldn’t see my own strategy, I had won the match.
“Atta boy, little buddy!” He smiled. Well, for once the coffee was on him.
Eric and I played recreationally. Garry Kasparov was never gonna be threatened (by me, at least). I had/have very little interest in chess. I was just being a friend. And when it came to religion and Christianity, politics and social issues… well, let’s just say he returned the favor. As good as he was at surveying the board, anticipating moves, and carefully setting up a perfect combination of defense and offense, he didn’t see the sense in doing the same types of assessments in real life. When the board was put up and the work was done, he just wanted a beer and a movie.
It would be easy to characterize him, and people in general, as careless and it wouldn’t be wrong. Americans don’t just have a right to be involved in politics and the things that affect their livelihood – they have a responsibility. It’s not just ‘the right to vote,’ it’s the responsibility of casting an informed vote. If everyone was involved in educating themselves in order to cast an intelligent vote, then the chess match that the politicians are involved in would be much less interesting. As it is, the general public is so overwhelmingly unaware of the facts, that the average politicians don’t play much more than a game of checkers to win over the masses. “You’re a socialist!” Hop. “You’re a racist!” Hop. “You’re out of touch!” Hop. “You hate American farmers!” Hop. “You stole from Medicare and issued the largest tax hike on middle income families in American history! King me!” Hop hop. It’s like watching a five month checkers match where both players refuse to move their back row. The only foresight these people use is great care to not offend a majority in order to win the election. And the ‘fans’ do not much more than sit in the margins and tweet one line insults at the candidates and their base. “Heard ur guy loves dogs…” (Yeah, choose one. It works either way…) Maybe worse than the ignorant citizen just enjoying life is the politically active person doing nothing more than playing checkers on the side.
Some, then, must assume the role of chess player. Whether novice or grand master, we must engage. In life, in faith, and in politics, we must move more deliberately and cautiously. We must survey the whole board. Rather than fancy ourselves one line geniuses, we need to have a strong opening – necessarily a circumspect attack – a strong apologetic defense. Every time we revert to childish nonsense we lose position and fail to realize it.
And we must arm ourselves with the knowledge of their defenses, offenses, pieces, and players. Hashtags are fun, but don’t sacrifice the opportunity to gain position when you can. Tact is everything.
Someone once said, “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Are we really the party of compassion? Is the right of someone to hold a stupid opinion as valuable as your right to your brilliant opinion? Seriously, is it? How can we expect to wow people with what we know when what they see is a cocky self righteous conservative so called Christian? Either it’s giving the other person a false idea of what you really stand for – including the God you serve, or it’s giving them the right one. Do we believe that what comes out of the mouth is what spills over from the heart only when the opposition is speaking?
It applies to us too.
The moral high ground is only ascertainable through the vetting of your own heart. Take inventory. Stock up. Study the Greats. Develop a plan. Don’t get distracted. Be prepared at the end of the match, even every move, to know you didn’t act in haste, that you made the best move possible – that you did everything right. Snide comments and clever insults are nothing more than sacrificing pawns. Even one pawn moved all the way across the board can gain you a distinct advantage. Stop wasting them! Instead take advantage of their careless sacrifices.
The game is on. The stakes are high. Enough petty exchanges. We are the party of compassion. We are more than just a one line insult. We are patriots. We are reason. We are truth. Whether Christian or not, we are Americans.
Are you in it to win it this November?