It is not often that life hands you a chance to stand behind your declared principle - immediately following the declaration!
In my column entitled Fingering Armstrong's Handouts, published in Wednesday's American Spectator on line, I made the point that those of us writing on the right wing of the political spectrum are willing to forgo heftier paychecks elsewhere for the sake of maintaining integrity. But I added the modifier: "...although we struggle every day..."
Sure enough, life saw fit to put me to the test.
I play Scrabble on line at games.com and I have painstakingly built myself up to a 1983 rating. The only people with 2000 ratings or higher are literally international champions. It is the equivalent of grandmaster in chess.
So many games had been lost to me by flukes like my computer crashing when it was my turn and the system reading it as a resignation. I could very well have constructed a rationale that said that I had really earned the 2000 and was being thwarted by technical accidents.
Tonight, I was playing an opponent who is known to me personally, the Scrabble champion of a country in Europe. Due to the time difference, it was morning where that person was. Because of their high rating, I would receive 20 points if I won, catapulting me to 2003. However, if they resign, although they lose the 20 points, I do not gain it; that is the system.
Toward the end of the game, my opponent made a move that in my view was defensible as a gamble, but it created an opening for the letter E on the Triple Word Score line. It cost me the E, the Q, and a blank, to make EQUID for 49 points and an insurmountable lead late in the game.
Suddenly, my opponent informs me that the opening was not created as a tactical gamble but as an intentional gift to throw me the game so that I would reach 2000. So there it was: in a flash, I was walking in Armstrong Williams' shoes.
I refused to accept the gift; I knew that you would expect it of me. I offered to unrate the game (an allowable option); my opponent refused, said that I was demonstrating "shockingly bad form" in refusing their gesture.
I said, "But I won't be 2000 if I haven't really won the game." That did not go over real big.
So I gave up the points. My opponent resigned.
I gave up the friendship, too, most probably. It was a great honor and pleasure for me to be acquainted with this genuine champion: gone.
Not much left. Just a much-soiled threadbare mantle of integrity, at least until the next time I fail.
But my column at the Spectator... I can leave up for one more day. Just this once, the tempter came and I did not bite.