The general public is stupid. Crazy stupid. “Were you raised by goats??” stupid.

Not just “Dang, I locked my keys in the car” stupid. Not just “Crap, I put the case of beer on top of the eggs” stupid.

I mean “Let me put a starving wolverine down my pants just to watch it run up and down my leg” stupid.

Professional grade, “Let’s bypass all those pesky safety regs so the machine runs all the time until someone loses a finger, oops!” stupid.

Weaponized, “I know texting and driving is illegal and dangerous, but Imma take a bunch of downers and text for fifteen miles until I kill an entire family” stupid.

Dear reader, who among us hasn’t accidentally microwaved an egg until we realized too late that it’s not a good idea? Indeed, who among us hasn’t forgotten that jalapenos will bite mucus membranes hours after being handled?  Lastly, how many of us are completely wed to ideas that no longer serve a valid purpose or even make sense anymore?

All of us, at one time or another, have done, said, believed and supported stupid things, stupid ideas, stupid people.  Schadenfreude would not exist if no one had a frame of reference for it.  “What goes around, comes around” would not resonate had it never happened to me or to you.

So, stupidity is universal.  Just as there are degrees of intelligence, there are degrees of stupid, and I like to think there is a bell curve wherein fully fifty percent of us fall in the middle of the spectrum, on the side of car key locking, but not far enough to the right for steering a four thousand pound rolling missile with a bare foot while shooting bottle rockets out the window because it will generate tons of views on Facebook live.

Funny thing, those of us who detest those people who are more stupid, we also tend to mistrust those people who are much less stupid.  Really smart people are nerds, of course, unless they are dead, disabled, or so enlightened that they don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks anymore. At that point, they are put on a pedestal and essentially trotted out for photo ops.

So, right now, we have really stupid people in government, but not so stupid they can’t con a significant portion of the public.  Start locally, and work your way up from there.  I’ll wait.

Let’s just take an example that presented itself a couple of days ago from Fort Worth, Texas.  I won’t go into the particulars of why the cop got fired, but suffice to say, his actions were egregious.  Not so much criminally egregious, because nobody was killed, but stupid enough for the department to say, “So long, hoss. You’re out.”

Now, what caught my ear from all this wasn’t his actions, but the Union rep coming on TV and saying that the firing would cause all cops to rethink their actions and take into consideration the consequences of their behavior.  Please note, he was not endorsing the firing by any means:  he was saying in essence that holding cops accountable for their behavior would have a chilling effect on law enforcement.

Um, duh. Now, a significant portion of the public agreed with him that holding cops accountable for their stupid actions would be a very bad thing.  After all, if someone obeys the law, they won’t have to worry about it, right?

Let’s just take a peek at events of the past few years to realize this really isn’t a wholly true statement.  Let’s dig into the histories of all involved and try to figure out why things went down the way they did.

No?  You mean, I’m not allowed to look at Officer Cop’s bullying behavior of the past, but I need to look at dead suspect’s weed smoking past?  Why not?  And so it goes.  Knowledge can be used two ways, no?

Truth and facts are not mutually exclusive, as it were.  You can have facts without truth, and you can have truth without facts.  Myths and archetypes are two examples of truth without facts.  In the example of the fired cop, looking at the facts and ignoring the truth is not likely to assuage anyone’s outrage on either side of the issue.

The roots of weaponized stupid are long and deep.  It’s gonna take more than a hoe and fire to keep it beat back to a manageable level.  Education, specifically teaching self-discipline, will help.  Reinforcing consequences will help.  If we live long enough, most of us understand that certain behaviors are not worth the consequences.  Live and learn.

Likewise, if children don’t ever face consequences for behavior, they will continue to engage in behaviors that hurt or even kill others. Wisdom isn’t a gift bestowed on the lucky, believe it or not.   Wisdom is like grits; whether you like them or not, you never forget them.  Never. You can eat them. Or not.  You might complain, but if your belly is empty, those grits will satisfy and warm you.

And now, I present to you, our government.  Our wonderful, “We elected these numbnuts” government.  I’m going to tell you a secret, so lean in and listen closely to this fact, scattered, smothered and covered in truth.

Our elected officials, the ones we trust to keep the train on the track, the ones who promise the moon and stars to get elected, the ones who swear they fight for all of us?

They know the general public is stupid.  They are smart enough to know that white noise from back home is just that–white noise.  They know that all they have to do is keep the money coming in, the contacts refreshed in their phones, and photo ops with the yahoos-er, constituents and they are set for life.  Set. For. Life.

See, they don’t really give a damn about their brethren’s behavior. It’s all white noise.  No matter which side of the aisle they reside on, they don’t really care, as long as the yahoos-er, constituents are at home, outraged and donating their pittances in the forlorn hope that their voices will be heard.

The Roy Moore fiasco? Believe me when I tell you that nobody in Washington gave a rat’s ass whether or not he was elected. The GOP didn’t care whether he won or lost: their stupid rubes would support Atilla the Hun if he had an (R) behind his name.  The Dems didn’t care except that a dem win would appease their base and give them a shred of hope for at long last, decency. And in doing so, keep their coffers full.

They. Don’t. Care.

Are the Republicans concerned they will lose in mid-terms?

Nope.  Why not?

Surely they want to stay in Washington.  Well, sure they do, but they don’t have to be elected to be powerful. Rich. Set for life.

How many members of Congress come back home to the suburbs and cut their own grass?  How many retired Senators kick back on a fishing boat at a little cottage on the lake? How many just chill out and live on a tight budget like the rest of us?  I’m going to take a wild guess and say, none.

You see, they all survived the white noise and rampant stupidity long enough to get theirs in the form of lobbying jobs, chairmanships, guest professorships, and other positions that they feel they really deserve for gutting it through all the rubber chicken dinners, interminable town halls, backroom deals with this racist oilman, and that billionaire industrialist.

They are professionals at reading us, the stupid.  They are so good at running the con on us that most of us don’t even know our pockets are being picked by pros. Believe me when I say there’s not a member of Congress wringing his or her hands over the plight of their poorest and most vulnerable yahoos-er, constituents.  They may SAY they are, but nope.

So, here we are.  Fighting among ourselves, lurching from one outrage to another, wringing our hands and writing letters, calling our MoCs, all because of one nebulous thing: our belief that good will win out.

Sadly, good cannot win until stupidity is marginalized and real consequences are paid, and not just by the innocent.  Good cannot win until we understand on a visceral level that we give away our power to people we wouldn’t hire to rake leaves, much less make life-altering laws. Good cannot win until we set aside our feelings about what we don’t like and start pulling together for the common good.

In the next installment, I will tackle this contagious sense of entitlement that seems to be pervasive in society.

 

 

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BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, the house vibrated with each beat.

Jane cocked her head, startled.

“What’s that noise?”

I told her it was a car speaker booming somewhere close.

“A CAR SPEAKER!” “WHAT??”

I walked out on to the porch and the next door workers were blasting from a truck as they threw trash into the bed. my triangle neighbors across the street came out, too. Left angle neighbor said that her twin toddlers woke up from their naps. Right angle neighbor came out barefooted, hair all askew, throwing up her hands.

“What the fuck??”

I jerked my thumb over to the offending house. Dude, they shaking the house. She said her windows were rattling. She shouted over in Spanish to cut the music down and they ignored her. We talked for a few minutes and went back in. I texted the PD and said the neighbors were raising the dead over here. I came back outside and the music was turned down enough that all you could hear was quiet little booms, like a cockatoo that’s been told to shut the fuck up but he mumbles just enough to let you know you are not his mother and he doesn’t have to listen to you.

Right angle neighbor came back over and we smoked and talked about her casino trip the night before. She said her old man was gonna shit when he pulled up and heard what had happened. Not that he’s a crazy guy or anything, but he is the opposite of little man syndrome. And he’s a short guy. I know good and well he won’t start anything but he will sure finish it. Couple of weeks ago, he was outside raking leaves when he heard another neighbor, elderly, yelling at some dogs that were chasing her out of her backyard. He ran over with his rake and they turned on him. He made them turn around and hop over the back fence to the crackheads’ yard, which is probably where they came from in the first place. He told me to keep an eye out for the dogs when I came outside, and sure enough, as soon as I got back in the house, they came running into my yard and charged at the storm door where the cats were looking out. I yelled so loud that they stopped and ran off. The cops called me that day when they finally had the dogs cornered and I could hear them barking like crazy as the cop told me he thought he had found the right ones.

My neighbor told me she had called the cops earlier, so we watched for them, and sure enough, they came rolling by right after boomer left. They chatted with us for a few minutes and were the epitome of polite and even tweaked me a little on my ballcap.

This neighborhood is small, one way in, one way out. It’s a mixed, diverse neighborhood, with a trump supporter at one end, hispanics at the other end, and every color of the rainbow in the middle. The town itself is small, just a dot on the highway, but less than ten miles from a good sized urban area. Hundreds of brand new neighborhoods are getting thrown together by a builder of dubious reputation, but people don’t care. They are desperate for affordable housing and this is where they will find it. The older neighborhoods here are getting top dollar for shitholes, even though there are no bad neighborhoods to speak of, but Texas is cursed with soil that moves. Foundations crack. They can get so bad that a house can look like it’s broken in half on the inside and still command a premium price because of the location. So, this settled little subdivision is mature, quiet, where little kids ride their scooters and big wheels up and down the street under shade trees big enough to cool the yard but no so big they will send limbs into the neighbor’s roof the next little tornado that skips through.

The cops ride through and don’t mess with anybody. They didn’t say anything when we, four middle-aged adults, sat at the edge of the driveway to watch the fireworks down at the park and smoked a blunt and drank beer. They just waved at us. You know what happens when the Policia roll up on people reliving their bad old days:

“Shhh! Shhh! Be cool! Shnork!”

I like both platforms.  Really, I do.  Facebook was fun when I first joined.  It was exciting to be able to reconnect with old friends and stay in touch with family.  I could have long chats for hours, catching up with everyone, liking their posts, feeling as if I am a part of their lives.  It is comforting on a certain level to be able to let someone know I am thinking of them, and when they read it, I know they are thinking of me, at least for that moment.  I could invite people in to see my pets, my dinners, my collection of craft brews.  I felt comfortable sharing my activities, my whiny days, my job.  The boundary lines are roomy, up to a point.  After a while, the honeymoon was over.  People can only take so much complaining before they start giving advice.  The advice phase lasts about as long as the falling out of love phase in a marriage.  Then, people either start really jumping into one’s shit, or they just go away–ghost the whole thing.  After a few years, though, strong friendships can be formed and family bonds severed.  It happens.  That’s where people start getting choosy about what they post and they continue to grow.  Whether they grow together or grow apart depends on what they are willing to do to keep the relationship alive.  It’s a familiar place, as broken in as a favorite pair of shoes or faded polo.  I look at them and hang on to them because they still serve a purpose, albeit much narrower than in the beginning.

Twitter is the opposite.  It’s like 50 first dates every stinking day.  It’s exciting, addictive, soul-sucking.  It’s as demanding as a mistress and as flighty as a girlfriend.  Every day there’s something new.  Every day, all day long, breaking news, twitter wars, trolling, and somewhere under the noise is a steady hum of news, research, articles, exposure to new cultures, diverse opinions, creators, artists, teachers, journalists, politicians, leaders, celebrities, lawyers . . . and they are all accessible.  Unbelievably so.  I can send a tweet to Chely Wright and she just might respond.  I can make a pithy comment on a Julian Castro tweet, and he might even answer with a pithy comment of his own.  There are few boundaries between people and stars.  There’s a level of trust and an element of danger, just like a psycho girlfriend.  The sheer volume of information can become crazy-making.  Woe to the neophyte who wanders into a timeline that is already rolling along and try to be clever.  It’s like trying to jump on a moving train while wearing a gunny sack.  Pragmatic elitism exists as a desperate filter to at least move the noise to an acceptable level.  There are bad neighborhoods and good neighborhoods, just like every city in real life.  It takes a certain level of street smarts to navigate unscathed through them.

We need these platforms–to inform us, to make us think if we want to.  They can become echo chambers of confirmation bias, and they can impel us to educate ourselves and find out the truth of what is out there.  I don’t know anything about reddit or 4chan or instagram because I waste enough time already with these two sites.  Being curious can lead me all around the world and back home again.  I become a little wiser and more willing to explore, as long as I understand on a visceral level that these two platforms are for me to use, not for them to use me.