Winning the Big Prize

A memory that forever will amuse me crossed my mind this morning while I considered friends’ “my-political-point-view-is-right-so-you-won’t-change-my-mind-but-I’m-sure-I-can-change-your-mind-even-though-you-think-you-won’t-change-your-mind-but-think-you-can-change-my-mind” opinions.

I was a high school student who was fairly interested in politics when my next-older brother’s friend invited that brother and me to attend the meeting of a rather radical political organization in which the friend’s family was (and likely still is) quite active. I won’t prolong the story to name the organization, other than hinting that the fellow after whom the organization is named shares a moniker with a tree that’s covered in white, paper-like bark.

I went because I’ve always believed in listening to other people’s political points of views and weighing them within my views, trying to keep a truly open political mind.

The meeting didn’t offer much more than I already knew about the organization, though it hammered into me their beliefs about what religious group and which oligarchs own the world banking system. They also did a great job of hammering home their point that, within a couple years, the United Nations would be snatching our sovereign rights (which they originally said would happen around the time of their late-1950s founding, the failure of accomplishing that one-world system coup certainly an indication that the U.N. is an unworkable monstrosity).

And, of course, I can’t forget about those dirty-bastard-red-pinko commies who were snatching our country away from us and most certainly likely were infiltrating the room that very night.

I listened to each of their droning points, doing my best to not light my mind drift to the college-aged daughter of one of the organizers who sat by the door and handed us little raffle tickets as we entered the hall. But then my ears perked up when the speaker mentioned those wonderful words we all long for at every meeting and convention: “OK, take out your tickets, because it’s time for door prizes!”

I pulled the ticket out of the my high school letter jacket’s pocket and got set. Maybe the cute young woman was my lucky charm; maybe her smile would bring extra luck to me in this drawing.

Zero. Three. Nine. Six. Eight. Three.

They announced my number! I won the main door prize!

The walk to the dais was more of a glide than a walk. I’d do my best, I told myself, to act cool despite all the excitement that was churning my innards. The 50 or so steps to the front were surreal and seemed like 50,000 steps, the clouds I walked on lifting my weight from the hall’s hardwood floor.

Possibilities of what the prize might be flashed through my mind.

Would it be a portable television? A transistor radio? Gawd, maybe they’re giving out one of those newfangled CB radios or an eight-track tape player!

The emcee had a huge smile as I approached, and made note into his microphone about how wonderful it was to see new youth interested in the organization. He reached into the box containing the main door prize and pulled something out.

It was a big bag filled with pamphlets, flyers and any other imaginable form of written propaganda the organization could scratch together. Gaaaaaaah!

I hid my disappointment and dutifully held an appreciative grin — doing my best to hide that grin’s sarcasm — as we waited for the meeting to close and then left. There was some consideration of leaving it on the chair, but from my earliest days I despised people who littered buildings and the countryside with such trash; I thought it would be rude of me to make the organizers hear the heavy “bonk” of the metal trash can sitting beside the exit door.

I didn’t want to disappoint that young woman, still at the door and melting me with her eyes and smile. I squared my shoulders and puffed my chest a bit as I passed her, returning her smile with mine and clutching my prize in a way to acknowledge that it was because of her luck that I’d won the prize.

The prize went home with me, where my growing political curiosity drew me into reading it. I dumped the bag’s content onto my bed and read with wonder some of the greatest political fiction known to humans and, when I was done, I slipped it all back into the bag and slipped it under my bed — taking a quick glance out of my farmhouse bedroom window just to be sure that no commies were lurking outside as some of the materials had suggested would be happening.

I never again pulled those grand-prize materials from their bag.

There have been times since then when I’ve wondered what would have happened if the pamphlets and booklets were right and the commies or the United Nations or the FBI or the CIA would have raided our old farm house before I left it for the Marine Corps. What teenager would dare to keep such reading materials in a bag under his bed, after all?

I don’t know what eventually happened with that bag of propaganda. I will, however, admit to being proud of myself for having read every piece of it to learn a little more about that organization — if only someday to have ammunition for arguing the idiocy of its members’ radical points.

And besides, I had to read it because it was the night’s major door prize.

— Scott Schultz

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