by Joyce Marcel
August 26, 2010
A BUSHEL FULL
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- August is usually the silly season for news, but this year it seems somehow different; America seems to be drowning in dumb.
Case in point: terror babies.
I don't know if you've seen the footage of Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on Anderson Cooper's show talking, in all seriousness, about what David Kurtz on TalkingPointsMemo says is "the perfect convergence of anti-immigration and anti-Islam fear mongering: terrorists will come to the U.S. to have babies on U.S. soil so that they become U.S. citizens and can slip easily back into the country once they grow up and kill us all!"
Leaving aside the fact that babies can't be counted on to grow up and do anything their parents want, the fact that Gohmert was being taken seriously instead of being laughed out of Congress was the part that's scary.
Scary? You want scary?
You have Arizona going so crazy over illegal aliens that they want to trash the Constitution; favorite son John McCain won the primary because he jettisoned every belief he ever held, along with his credibility. (Of course, he also did that during the last presidential election, but at least he lost.)
In California, you have people going bat-wing nutty about gay marriage, which they want to believe is a lifestyle choice - like the color of a carpet.
You have columnists like Jane Gilvary - who describes herself as "a red, white, and blue conservative from the City of Brotherly Love. She loves Jesus, Johnny Cash, and the U.S. Constitution."
Writing in The Philadelphia Bulletin, she decries "the feminization" of men, who are no longer "masculine steak-eating, plaid shirt wearing, Old Spice smelling, cigar smoking cowboys who like football, hunting, and Clint Eastwood movies."
Who does she blame? "Not surprisingly, the arrow of blame points towards the feminists," she writes. "Boys learn to subdue their more spirited, intrepid behavior in elementary and middle school, their male instincts of competition and individualism quashed in the interest of what's best for girls as they walk like lemmings over the edge of the radical feminist cliff by the time they reach high school... The end product is pantywaist pushovers who will cry during "Steel Magnolias" and urinate sitting down."
You have tea-baggers worked up about the proposed Islamic Center (not just a mosque) near the former site of the World Trade Center. They claim it will defile that sacred spot - unlike the Pussycat Lounge strip club, the Off-Track Betting parlor and the delis and nail salons that are already in the neighborhood.
However, you don't have tea-baggers worked up about the proposed gambling casino - 600 slot machines and 50 gaming tables - near the historic battlefield at Gettysburg.
You have 18 percent of the American people, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life - that's one in five Americans, by the way - erroneously believing that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. The percentage of people who know Obama is Christian declined from 48 percent in March 2009 to 34 percent today. And 43 percent of Americans don't know Obama's religion at all. And all of them have forgotten the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.
Add your own favorites to the list. But you still have to ask, when did the United States become demented?
One person I know argues that what we're seeing now is nothing new; it happens whenever Democrats get into power. He points to the lack of Tea Party craziness during the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush eras. Then someone like Bill Clinton gets into office and everyone goes all nutso about his penis.
Many people think it's just a right-wing power grab - Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Glen Beck, Karl Rove and their ilk saying, "We can scare 'em into doing what we want, buying what we want and voting for who we want."
For a while, I thought the problem was the corporatization of the media, which cut newsroom budgets and came close to eliminating investigative reporting. It also boosted sales with celebrity gossip and nonsense like, "Is your toilet seat about to kill you? Film at 11."
Maybe it's a confluence of these things. But the dumbing of America is in full flower now.
Before, whenever I tried to conjure up a working image of a bushel full of stupidity jammed into a one peck basket, what came to mind was a scene from the movie "Elizabeth," where "heretics" are being burned at the stake for their religion as people watch and cheer. That's as daft as I think people can get - burning each other over a kind, merciful and benign Being named God.
The mindless, knee-jerk love of hatred in that scene scared the living hell out of me. We haven't quite come to that yet, but every new bit of dumb brings us, as a nation, closer to that frightening edge where sanity separates from reality and people do dangerous, hurtful things.
Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) would like to thank Gawker.com and TheAwl.com (Motto: Be less stupid) for their up-to-the-minute bulletins on humanity's excesses. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.