This Makes Me Sad

This even made Beyonce sad.
This even made Beyonce sad.
I know, as do you, that there are people out there who believe some odd things. Quite a few of them represent red states in the U.S. Congress. Others have talk shows on Fox. But the one thing most of us try to ignore is how those people got to where they’re at. In the case of our delusional congresspeople they were elected by a majority of constituents in their part of the country. In the case of the talk show hosts they are there because there are enough people who buy the crap they sell. Which means that there are people walking among us who have little to no grasp of what reality entails. They breathe the same air we do, see the same sun we do, and have access to the same information we do and they just choose to ignore or deny it all. It’s like the Taliban but without the subtlety.

Mark Morford at the San Francisco Chronicle has put together a compendium of really depressing stats.

Six percent of Americans believe in unicorns. Thirty-six percent believe in UFOs. A whopping 24 percent believe dinosaurs and man hung out together. Eighteen percent still believe the sun revolves around the Earth. Nearly 30 percent believe cloud computing involves… actual clouds. A shockingly sad 18 percent, to this very day, believe the president is a Muslim. Aren’t they cute? And Floridian?

Do you believe in angels? Forty-five percent of Americans do. In fact, roughly 48 percent – Republicans and Democrats alike – believe in some form of creationism. A hilariously large percent of terrified right-wingers are convinced Obama is soon going to take away all their guns, so when the Newtown shooting happened and 20 young children were massacred due to America’s fetish for, obsession with and addiction to firearms, violence and fear, they bought more bullets. Because obviously.

In sum and all averaged out, it’s safe to say about 37 percent of Americans are just are not very bright. Or rather, quite shockingly dumb. Perhaps beyond reach. Perhaps beyond hope or redemption. Perhaps beyond caring about anything they have to say in the public sphere ever again. Sorry, Kansas.

Did you frown at that last paragraph? Was it a terribly elitist and unkind thing to say? Sort of. Probably. But I’m not sure it matters, because none of those people are reading this column right now, or any column for that matter, because reading anything even remotely complex or analytical is something only 42 percent of the population enjoy doing on a regular basis, which is why most TV shows, all reality shows, many major media blogs and all of Fox News is scripted for a 5th-grade education/attention span. OMG LOL kittens! 19 babies having a worse day than you. WTF is up with Justin Timberlake’s hair?!?

It is this bizarre, circular, catch-22 kind of question, asked almost exclusively by intellectual liberals because intellectual conservatives don’t actually exist, given how higher education leads to more developed critical thinking (you already know the vast majority of university professors and scientists identify as Democrat/progressive, right?) which leads straight to a more nimble, open-minded perspective. In short: The smarter you are, the less rigid/more liberal you become.

Until you get old. Or rich. And scared. And you forget. And you clamp down, seize up, fossilize. And the GOP grabs you like a mold.

Oh right! The question: How to reach the not-very-bright hordes, when they simply refuse to be reached by logic, fact, or modern mode? How to communicate obvious and vital truths (conservation, global warming, public health, sexuality, basic nutrition, religion as parable/myth, the general awfulness of Mumford & Sons) the lack of understanding of which keep the country straggling and embarrassing, the laughingstock of the civilized world?

And who are these people, exactly? And are they all really in Kentucky and Florida and Mississippi? Are they all in the Tea Party? Is failing education to blame? A dumbed-down media? Reality TV? In the wealthiest and most egomaniacal superpower in the world, why is the chasm so wide?

There is no easy answer, but there is a great deal of irony. It is a wicked conundrum that you and I can debate the definition of elitism, whether or not it’s fair to criticize those who believe that, say, gay marriage means kids will be indoctrinated into homosexuality, or that evolution is still a theory, or that Jesus literally flew up out of a cave and into the sky, when the discussion itself is, by nature, elitist, exclusionary, requiring fluid, abstract thinking the very people we’re discussing simply do not possess, and therefore cannot participate in.

TLC used to stand for “The Learning Channel.” Thanks to deregulation it is now the home of shows called “Sister Wives” and “90 Day Fiancé.”

So much for edjumakayshun.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every channel should be like PBS. But it would be nice if people tried to raise the bar a little.

And, as to real education I remind you that the majority of textbooks are manufactured in Texas where they, recently, did try and get creationism and evolution both listed as valid scientific theories. Of course in Louisiana they do actually teach them side by side without any hint of irony.

And let us not forget this gem reported by Susan Guyet from Reuters.

Up to 150 students at a Missouri high school that ordered “Slaughterhouse-Five” pulled from its library shelves can get a free copy of the novel, courtesy of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, library officials said on Thursday.

The offer for students at Republic High School comes on the heels of the Republic School Board’s decision to remove Vonnegut’s novel and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” from the curriculum and the school library shelves.

“All of these students will be eligible to vote and some may be protecting our country through military service in the next year or two,” Julia Whitehead, the executive director of the Vonnegut library in Indianapolis, said in a statement.

“It is shocking and unfortunate that those young adults and citizens would not be considered mature enough to handle the important topics raised by Kurt Vonnegut, a decorated war veteran. Everyone can learn something from his book.”

Slaughterhouse-Five, considered Vonnegut’s most influential and popular work, is a satirical novel centered around the bombing of the German city of Dresden during World War Two.

The Republic School District took the move at its April 18 meeting following a complaint lodged by local resident Wesley Scroggins in the spring of 2010.

In his complaint, the Missouri State University associate business professor called on district officials to stop using textbooks and other materials “that create false conceptions of American history and government or that teach principles contrary to Biblical morality and truth.”

Neither Scroggins nor Republic School Superintendent Vern Minor were immediately available for comment.

Whitehead said she was talking with the American Civil Liberties Union in Missouri and Indiana to support the First Amendment rights of the students at Republic High School.

The offer of a free book to any Republic high school student who requests one is a way for the fledgling 7-month-old library, located in Vonnegut’s hometown, to show support, she said.

Yes, Wesley Scroggins is a moron and Vern Minor is a wimp. This is exactly when the school superintendent should use this as a teaching moment and explain what the First Amendment is and what it really protects.

It allows Mr. Scroggins to continue being a moron but it allows us the freedom to disagree with him.

Although, I can see why an enlightened gentleman such as Mr. Scroggins might have had a problem with the book.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue… Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.

Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

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