America The Pitiful
"You cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot."
Yesterday, in an OpEd published in the Huffington Post, Bill Maher wrote a piece which decried the dumbing down of the American people in in recent years:
"We weren't always like this. Inert. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law and 11 months later seniors were receiving benefits. During World War II, virtually overnight FDR had auto companies making tanks and planes only. In one eight year period, America went from JFK's ridiculous dream of landing a man on the moon, to actually landing a man on the moon."
Do you have any idea how utterly cool that is? Lighten up, Bill.
In 1963, the the people were singing, We Shall Overcome.
Forty-six years later, the chant was, We Shall Undermine.
In 1963, a vast and varied demographic of the American people - all races and religions - descended on the nation's capitol to peaceably and nonviolently protest an injustice that was occurring in certain areas of the country to people of a certain skin pigmentation.
Forty-six years later, a Convention of Pissed-Off White People - united only by the fact that they were all habitual viewers of a single cable news channel - rolled into Washington to hurl invective at an African American president for creating a mess that he had absolutely nothing to do with creating.
In 1963, the signs people held up were optimistic: "With Liberty and Justice for All."
Forty-six years later, the signs were ominous: "We Came Unarmed - THIS TIME!"
On August 28, 1963, the hearts of people who marched on the city of Washington DC were filled with love and hope.
On September 12, 2009 they were just full of shit.
Let us boil the comparisons down to their juicy essentials, shall we? Martin Luther King had a dream. Glenn Beck has a scheme.
"Stupid is as stupid does."
THE SELLING OF STUPIDITY
In the America of 2009, "STUPID" is a valuable commodity. "STUPID" sells. A couple of years ago, one of the highest rated cable television programs for people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five was a show that was dedicated to stupid people doing really stupid things. The program was called, "Jackass". It was so successful, its producers were confident enough to make it into a full-length movie!
A few months ago, an African American named Michael Steele had a plan to bring other African Americans into the fold of the Republican party. How did he plan on accomplishing this damned-near-impossible feat, you may well ask? He was going to offer them watermelon.
In 2008, a Minnesota congresswoman declared that an investigation should be initiated against every Democratic member of congress for "un-Americanism". Less than a month later, she was reelected.
Last week at a Town Hall meeting, a woman confronted Eric Cantor with the plight of a close friend whose illness had left her destitute. With a straight face, the congressman suggested to the woman that her friend rely on charity.
Nearly half-a-century ago, there really wasn't much of a market for "STUPID" in most regions of this once-great nation:
"The energy, the faith, the devotion - which we bring to this endeavor - will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world."
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961
"I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace."
George W. Bush, 2002
No doubt about it: In the first decade of this new century, "STUPID" has a corner on the market.
How did the country that put a man on the moon a mere forty years ago become so jaw-droppingly dumb? There are loads of reasons for this, to be sure. Not the least of which is the fact that since the dawn of the so-called "Reagan Revolution" a generation ago, the education of America's children is no longer a priority. You see, Ronald Reagan's revolutionaries are not merely content to do away with the Department of Education, these assholes want to obliterate public education in this country all together! That is not merely my opinion, that is their stated, published goal. Do the research if you think I'm exaggerating.
This is not your father's America. Come to think about it, this ain't even your older brother's America. The dumbing down process of recent years has been that swift. If you're not seriously alarmed by what is now happening, you're probably getting up every morning with FOX and Friends. C'mon! Admit it!
Trivializing America: the Triumph of Mediocrity
by Norman Corwin
This brilliant essay by Mr. Corwin was written in the late eighties and has been out of print for a number of years. Try finding it on Ebay. It's worth the effort.
Have you ever been to Elaine's Place? It's a nice place indeed:
When I first made this posting, I referred to Norman Corwin as "the late Mr. Corwin". I have just been ever-so-gently chastised by a reader named H.M.Covert that Norman Corwin celebrated his 99th birthday on May 3. Not only is he still very much alive, he is still writing. God bless him.