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I don't think we're as stupid as our public discourse makes us out to be.
We don't read the bills, that's true. But when did anybody ever read the bills? You couldn't read them even if you read them, and you'd just get old and lose all your wits if you kept on trying.
I thought that's what we had all these high-off-the-hog globe-trotting affair-having donation-chasing sens and reps and all their aides and decamps and their retinues for. To read the bills and then yea or nay. But they're too busy posturing and stroking their PACs, hating Mexicans and loving guns, to do anything useful and common-sensical like routine taking care of business.
That's also what we used to have a free press for. To read the bills, with competent news reporters to separate the wheat from the chaff (and editorial pages to publish the chaff, the old joke went), to tab the pork and quid the quos, bringing a nice calm, understandable perspective to the process.
But good reporters are hens' teeth now, if not altogether extinct, and in their place, charged with making what was obscure pellucid, and, alas, altering the assignment to make what was merely turgid hysterical, all we have is a bunch of yelling crazy people.
I think we ought to Taser every last one of the yelling crazy people, just on general principle, but that's another topic for another day.
So we have the yelling crazy people to read the bills and sift them for nubs and laundry, to cull whereases and adverbs, to separate the horse hockey from the hair of the dog, and when one of them yells, “Oh, my God, they wanna snuff grandma!” what can we do — what, other than considering the source, always a good idea — but heed the alarum and start taking steps?
It's the same barrel Tom Ridge and those whoremongers had me over back in '04, spending my nights and weekends furiously duct-taping black plastic tarpaulin over my basement Homeland Security bunker and putting out canisters of nuclear radiation repellent.
Prudently taking heed and some early steps to get granny into hiding — IMO that's not stupidity so much as it is credulousness, a more positive quality. Stupid is bad but credulous is pardonable if you don't let it get to be a habit.
As President George W. Bush said, “Fool me once — shame on you. Fool me — uh, er, …” leaving us to infer the rest, as he wasn't able to.
So the enemy here is ignorance more than stupidity. You don't know what crafty evil might be lurking in a bill, so, knowing you're vulnerable, you assume the worst as a way of keeping your guard up. You'll take Glen Beck's word even though you know he's an imbecile. He's an even worse imbecile than you are, but what's a vulnerable person to do? Trust the one who's giving you glib assurances, or mind the imbecile who might for once be onto something?
Welcome to America, 2009. We yell; you decide.
The big difference between a stupid citizenry and an ignorant one is that you can do something about ignorant. You can't make yourself any less vulnerable by taking along your deer rifle, or by shouting down politer people. There's only short-term and illusory security in that. But there are things you can do.
John Adams once resolved to read himself up out of ignorance and prejudice, and did it, and there's nothing keeping you from using your noodle for something besides growing hair on. Or losing hair off of, in the case of some of us.
You can turn off that TV. You can use your AM radio for catapult ammo in a medieval-castle siege re-enactment. You can find out which sources are the usually reliable ones, and start doing your own research. Be open-minded rather than merely looking for material to support conclusions you've already come to.
Remember that God didn't really write those billboards. Remember that nearly all analogies are horse manure, and all of the historical ones are. Remember if it sounds too good to be true, or too bad to be true, there's a reason why. Don't trust anybody who's getting paid to sway you. Don't trust anyone who doesn't know how many houses he owns.
And just a few other necessary things, including that you have to keep current on the operative terminology.
You can't let them flummox you, hoodwink you, go on making you look ridiculous in the world's eyes and posterity's eyes because you don't know the lingo. Because you don't know the difference between the single payer and the public option, between oil spikes and market jitters. That's the biggest single reason why they always get the doughnut and you get the hole.
I saw this quote the other day from a so-called market analyst: “We've seen a lot of short-covering in all commodities, gold in particular. It has trickled back a little, but could move on fundamentals once the housing data is out.”
If your reaction to that is WTF, as mine was, then both of us have homework to do, rather than just lying around the trailer as usual waiting for Dick Armey to pump our skulls a little bit fuller of dumb.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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