But, in fact, winning is not the true objective--or should not be the true objective--we have when engaging with the adversary. For we can never be certain of winning. That which we can hold onto, that which should be tangible when we engage, is the justice of the cause that motivates us to move forward. We fight because we believe we have just cause to do so and that through fighting we can bring about a positive outcome for ourselves or others. We fight because we believe our fighting will advance justice.
In my own life, I have entered into many fights where I may have been viewed as the losing party. But in each fight I achieved something.
My first fight involved something rather silly, a ban on sticker books at a small parochial school when I was in first grade. Do you remember sticker books? These were little books where you could collect and trade stickers with your friends. Well, the nun in charge of this parochial school took it upon herself to ban sticker books from the school. I was outraged.
My father suggested organizing a petition, so I did. During recess, I collected signatures and I brought the petition to the head nun in charge. Later, she entered the classroom and, "Mr. Sullivan, please stand up." I was terrified. This nun was known to have a paddle, a relic of her time presiding over the Baby Boom generation.
"Daniel," she said, "it was very ambitious of you to organize a petition about the sticker book ban. It took some initiative, and I admire that. However, I cannot allow sticker books on campus. You see, some of the children cannot afford sticker books, so they will feel left out. Don't you agree that we want all children to be equal at our school, that none should feel left out with there feelings hurt?"
"Yes, Sister," I said trembling. And the fact of the matter was that I agreed with her reasoning.
The sticker fight was not about winning or losing; it was about learning.
I did not win this fight, but engaging in it brought me the admiration of the school principal and forced her to articulate, for students, the reasoning behind the sticker book ban. Without the fight, the ban would have seemed arbitrary. So the fight was worth it; it achieved an objective, even if it was not a win. It moved us closer to justice.
And when we enter into a fight, I think we should remember this. We may not win, but chances are we help make things better, clearer, more just.
We fight because it is through the struggle itself that good things are born.
We are warriors in a dance, but the purpose of fighting is not to win or to lose; it is grand dance itself. So let us dance the dance, for this is our nature and our calling.