October 25, 2012
Someone recently called a local talk radio station in Fargo, ND, to complain that Deer Crossing signs were “encouraging” deer to cross busy highways and cause accidents. She suggested that if the Highway Dept. were to move the signs to safer areas, the deer would cross there—implying, of course, that deer can read.
But that’s nothing. I once saw pictures of a man trying to launch his boat by driving his car head-on into the water. It was at a public boat ramp, so presumably he had ample opportunity to observe everybody else backing their boats into the water without submerging their cars. Nevertheless, Captain Nemo did it his way. Glug-glug-glug.
In 2010 Congressman Hank Johnson (Democrat-GA), in a public hearing at the House of Representatives, expressed his “fear that the whole island… will tip over and capsize” if more Marines were stationed on Guam. Maybe islands tip over in Sinbad stories, but not in real life. Meanwhile, we have people running the country who think they do. Gee, what would happen if everybody in Manhattan suddenly ran over to the West Side? Mayor Bloomberg, call your office!
This being America in the 21st century, you can be sure that all three of the above-mentioned individuals had formal education, probably including college. During the course of that education, it was not deemed necessary to teach them that deer cannot read, you don’t drive your car head-on into deep water, and islands don’t capsize. “Now pay attention, class. Today I’m going to prove to you that wild animals don’t read…” It’s taken for granted that everybody knows such things.
Only, obviously, they don’t.
We’re not talking momentary lapses on the chessboard. This is stupidity that requires some determined effort, like Laurel and Hardy lugging the piano up that endless flight of stairs. I mean, what was going through the guy’s mind as he slowly drove his car into the drink, until the water lapped against his windshield? What did the deer lady think when no one answered her letters to the Highway Dept. demanding that they relocate the signs? And Congressman Johnson just went on and on, in front of all those cameras, about the island of Guam flopping over like an overcrowded boogie-board.
Such stupidity is not confined to individuals. Sometimes it’s a team effort. In 1905 some addled admiral in the Russian Navy commanded his flotilla of battleships to sink the English fishing fleet in the North Sea. He believed the fishing boats to be the Japanese Navy on its way to attack St. Petersburg. The Russian captains obeyed the orders to bombard a friendly country’s fishing boats. A major diplomatic incident ensued.
In our own country, people given to more than occasional fits of stupidity vote, hold office, sit as judges, teach at universities, and invest millions of dollars in movies that die the death as soon as they’re released. They set themselves up as moral arbiters and celebrity Christians, only to come crashing down when exposed as engaging in some sordid sexual affair, or worse—like they didn’t know they were going to get caught? It happens so often that you really have to wonder—do they mount the pulpit only as a humbler sort of nincompoop climbs up the high-drive ladder as the prelude to a loud and painful belly-flop?
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Once upon a hot summer’s day, many years ago, my friends and I toiled to build a raft. It was to be a special kind of raft, with a rubber tire mounted under each corner to keep it afloat; and we would sail down the stream in style. It was my idea: I’d seen a picture in “Popular Mechanics.” Amid swarms of ravenous mosquitoes, we lugged four old tires and a lot of lumber through the woods, through the sticker-bushes, and down to the water’s edge, where we assembled our proud vessel. Hours later, we pushed it into the water—and the four old tires immediately filled with water and dragged the whole thing to the bottom faster than you could blink.
Oh…! Why, that raft in “Popular Mechanics” must have floated not on tires, but on inner tubes!
It’s easy to see why they don’t let 10-year-olds run Navy yards. But the stupidity practiced by adults is much more difficult to guard against. It can crop up anytime, anywhere.
Kind of gives you the shudders, doesn’t it, when looking forward to Election Day?
© 2012 Lee Duigon - All Rights Reserved
Lee Duigon, a contributing editor with the Chalcedon Foundation, is a former newspaper reporter and editor, small businessman, teacher, and horror novelist. He has been married to his wife, Patricia, for 34 years. See his new fantasy/adventure novels, Bell Mountain and The Cellar Beneath the Cellar, available on www.amazon.com