Before my body was ruined by the hell that is known as high school wrestling, I played basketball. And by played basketball, I mean I was pretty much last on the bench for my high school’s freshman team. I mean, I was short, white, Jewish, and wore rec specs; the cards were clearly stacked against me, but what are you going to do? If I was Dillon, I would lie and say that I could dunk back then, but I’ll admit it: I was trash. But that didn’t matter because I still loved it. I loved running stairs in the morning; I loved doing an ungodly amount of suicides when I missed more than half of my free throws; I loved being that quintessential white dude cheering his face off on the bench in front of hundreds of people. And even for the huge lack of minutes that I got to see the floor, I loved it.
I wish I could write a column on how getting next to no playing time made me a better person, or how I really learned how to be a supporting player. Long story short, I did not become the White Mamba after this season or learn to be a good “locker room presence.” No, I just saw the writing on the wall that I was shit at basketball and never tried out for it again in my life. But I did get a single valuable insight from that season of riding the pine harder than Marilyn Monroe rode Catholic presidents. My coach was a bit of an… interesting person. I mean, he was a middle-aged 9th-grade gym teacher, so I feel that like explains everything you need to know. He was also all about the halftime speeches. It wouldn’t matter if we were tied or down by 30 (we were definitely never up by 30), he would give a halftime speech of the same intensity every time, and he would always focus on one line. Every time, without fail: “Just drink the Kool-Aid.”
The first few times that he said this phrase, I didn’t really know what he was talking about. I thought it was some reference to everybody drinking the same stuff and fighting the same fight (I mean, it kind of is). About a week into the season, I said something about “drinking the Kool-Aid” to my mom, to which she responded, “Woah, where’d you learn that?” After confessing that I did not, in fact, learn it in history class but rather at basketball practice, she made me sit down and listen to her explain to me what Jonestown was and where that phrase came from. Needless to say, I was a tad bit shocked at what went down in Guyana (although recently, I read about the conspiracy theories about the CIA and Jonestown, and now, on a scale of Dale Gribble to Ned Stark on how much I trust the government, I’m a Native American son away from being friends with Hank Hill). But that didn’t stop me from using the phrase; no, it gave the phrase an aura about it, a mystique that I’ve kept through this day.
Unbeknownst to this middle-school basketball coach, I fully live by this mantra of “drinking the Kool-Aid,” and it has helped me so much, professionally and
sexually otherwise. Granted, it’s definitely easy for me to say this as a white, middle-class dude, but there are definitely a lot of times when drinking the Kool-Aid and going with the flow is the only way of dealing with things. When your boss tells you to get a month-long project done in a week: just drink the Kool-Aid. When your taskmaster girlfriend tells you that you can’t watch House of Cards until she comes back from Houston: just drink the Kool-Aid. When Bill Belichick uses his blood magic and refuses to sign a true deep threat for the most beautiful man in the world Tom Brady: drink the Kool-Aid. Sometimes, you just got to accept what is happening and move on.
Granted, there are times that going with the flow and drinking the Kool-Aid is something that just cannot happen. Obviously, during times of racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other discrimination, you can’t just simply sit back and let it all happen. But there are so many times that simply putting your head down, embracing the suck, and drinking the Kool-Aid is the most appropriate way of going about it. When someone makes an off-color joke about Jewish people (as long as it’s not a Holocaust joke; those are a no-no), I just put my head down and keep on keeping on. When my boss decides that I don’t need to take weekends off for consecutive weeks, I just nod my head and say “of course.” Fighting him on that (or really anything) will never change anything or improve something, so just shutting my trap and doing my own thing is the way of going about it. I already don’t like confrontations, so this is the perfect/only way of dealing with things that are annoying/stupid/even more stupid.
The point of this little rant is not to say to just be okay with everything (obviously not possible), but more so to just pick your battles. I’m not going to win anything from calling people out for making Jewish jokes or for my boss thinking that I don’t need weekends. If these were things that actually mattered, like being discriminated against because of my race or gender or what have you, these are the battles to fight. Pick actual injustices and aggressions to fight about, not every little microaggression that comes along. Obviously, many small things, over time, may add up to something bigger, and that’s something that should be brought to light. But just because you can win doesn’t mean that you should fight. When that one douchebag in the office makes some passive aggressive comment to your boss at a meeting about how you phone it in every Friday afternoon, you’re just going to seem like a dick by trying to pick a fight with him about how he always shows up after 10 on Mondays. Just drink the Kool-Aid, suck it up, take the high road, and move on. Unless, of course, you are being forced to actually drink the purple Kool-Aid in a small country in South America, and then in that case, get the hell out as fast as possible. .
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