It seems like a week doesn’t pass when some political kook does not make a statement or take a position that is nakedly stupid, racist or both. In what was once the province of fringe players on the political stage, kookiness is now an acceptable trait for political leadership. How else could one explain the continued fascination and coverage of Sarah Palin by the media, and her acceptance by some quarters as a legitimate presidential possibility in 2012? If there truly are UFO’s, alien life must be looking down upon us with some reservation as to whether an earthly encounter would truly be worth the trip. Instead of “take me to your leaders,” I can imagine an alien life form more interested in why humans have such low expectations for individuals they choose to follow.
The crazy talk is not only reserved for the obviously intellectually challenged Ms. Palin. Down in Mississippi, Governor Haley Barbour, another supposed GOP presidential contender, keeps acting as if he were kicked by a mule; seemingly in denial over the violent and oppressive era of Jim Crow and the manner in which Blacks in his own state were treated. Likewise, the 150th anniversary of the Civil War has brought out Confederate sympathizers who claim the bloody war was not about slavery but the preservation of “southern culture.” If by culture they mean human bondage and violence, then they are right on the money but I suspect they are speaking more of states’ rights and the free reign to violate the Constitution.
What we see on television is no less troubling. How it is that conservative icon Bill Bennett remains a staple on cable television news after his diabolical reference several years ago to aborting Black babies as a “hypothetical” solution to reducing crime? Not only was Bennett’s out loud thinking kooky and crazy, it was downright scary. Still, he was welcomed back to mainstream respectability with no hesitation. In a similar vein, the “Big Wind” Rush Limbaugh has made enough racially offensive comments and references to gain honorary member status to the Ku Klux Klan but he is hailed as a populist curmudgeon. Likewise, the fawning over Ronald Reagan on the occasion of the late president’s 100th birthday brought to mind the manner in which he exploited racial divisions and smeared the Black struggle for equal rights by launching his campaign in the town where three civil rights martyrs disappeared and uttering the words “states rights,” the equivalent of spitting on their graves.
America has become the land of the free, home of the brave and domain of the stupid. We allow our historical narrative to be littered with lies and those lies to be the walls that separate us as a nation. We allow pseudo-intellectuals to pontificate, and pay for their demagoguery by supporting companies that advertise in newspapers and on television and radio stations that give them a platform. The American public has become so enamored with celebrity that many people actually consider reality television reality and the real events unfolding in our nation fiction. So, while we close schools and libraries, fire teachers and shut down day care centers, we build sports palaces, with public money. Our nation is wallowing in its own ignorance and even those who think they can profit by it or gain political favor because of it will suffer from it. The rush to dumb down America has created a crater so deep it may take decades before we can climb out and reach the top of the rim.
I could finish by offering some hopeful prescription for our nation’s future. Right now, I can’t think of one. Much like the lyrics of the Temptations hit “Ball of Confusion,” its “run, run, run but you sure can’t hide.” Stupidity has caught up with America and it’s no longer hidden from public view. It’s making policy on Capitol Hill and in state capitals, and leading financial institutions and major corporations. We don’t have to send in the clowns, some of them are making public policy.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.