Sunday, December 27, 2009

When the bad guy wins

In our culture, it is accepted as an article of faith that good triumphs in the end. It may take years, but good always wins.

It is this meme, mantra, or whatever you want to call it, that keeps us getting out of bed day after day, working meaningless jobs, dealing with idiots, and experiencing sporadic happiness—the idea that, no matter how badly you’ve been screwed, you’ll be on top someday.

Then there are those times when it becomes apparent that the good guy’s not going to win this time around.

This entry is about one of those times.

When I was in high school, an English teacher took a great interest in my writing, and I became infected with the idea that I could make a living as a writer. Several years later, I found myself writing for a community newspaper. The editor of that paper seemed like a decent guy. He was a strong writer and appeared to know the ins and outs of journalism. I saw him as a mentor, even a friend.

After about a year at the paper, it became clear to me that he was neither. On several occasions, suggestions he made to me got me in trouble with co-workers, and this appeared to be a pattern with other people at the paper, too. Things got worse when the paper was purchased by a chain and he was named managing editor. The paper’s format was tightened, and anything that deviated from that format was severely punished. I learned the hard way that the press is only truly free if you own it.

One day, I had a performance review, where I was confronted with every article I’d written over the past three years that this guy didn’t like. Soon after that, he fired me.

That should be the end of the story. I had grown to hate the job anyway. Sometimes I think I should thank him for taking away my right to take shit off of soccer moms for 15 grand a year. I’m in a different line of work now, and my life has gotten better. But I never completely gave up the dream of being a writer.

One day, I Googled his name and couldn’t believe what I found. He has become a fairly well respected, award winning writer of mysteries. He hasn’t made the best-seller list, to my knowledge, but I can’t seem to find anything bad about his writing online, either. My blood boils with every five-star review of his novels I read on

It wasn’t enough for him to kill one of my dreams. He had to kill—or at least beat me to—another.

Our culture tells us that the way I feel is somehow evil—that it’s bad to feel bitter about someone else’s success.

Then again, our culture also tells us that good always wins.

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