Charles: Stuck on stupid

Can we please, just stop being stupid?

It seems in the past few years, given two choices between wise discernment and profound stupidity, a significant number of our population has chosen the latter.

And the decisions are both big and small, affecting the individual or affecting the country, the continent and even the world. But we can’t get out of our own way.

It’s baffling really. In the age of information and news at our fingertips at every waking moment, we’ve chosen to follow only those opinions we agree with, narrow our world and our focus to our own fears and ignorance, and when we can, elect the village idiots who feed that ignorance.

We have gotten stuck on stupid, even small, everyday banalities — like road rage.

We all hate traffic. We’re all in a big hurry to get to the most important place we have to be. And my place is always more important than yours. So we don’t move aside for fire trucks, police cars or ambulances until we absolutely have to, when they are right on our bumper. And we don’t like letting other drivers into our lanes. That turn signal you’ve put on means nothing to me pal. The 20 seconds I’m going to save by not letting you in, is going to improve my life by leaps and bounds.

When I was learning to drive, way back in the last century, my father told me to give people a break, and someone will give you a break. Can you tell he didn’t drive here? Now a turn signal  means I speed up to make sure you can’t squeeze ahead of me. Which can become “let’s get ready to rumble.” Last week one of my (too many) notifications flashed a story of a road rage incident in which one person pulled out a gun and the other one a knife. This is beyond stupid — although my boss argues the one who pulled out a knife was really stupid, if he brought it out after the gun. No matter. We still have our moments on a major highway like the two middle-aged women who decided to duke it out after a fender bender a couple of weeks back.

Listen, I’ve been in fender benders. There are only two things that should happen. Either victim or perpetrator, your first words are “Are you all right?” If everyone is fine, pull over to the side of the road, exchange papers, no accusations, and call a tow truck if needed. No hair-pulling or fisticuffs need to happen.

And you don’t need to ride that person’s bumper, flash your lights or one-fingered salute because they are driving too slowly for your taste, and you’re running late. Also no reason to finally pull ahead and then cut in front either. That’s just stupid.

Then there is group stupid.

If you are a baby boomer, check your left upper arm. That circular scar has been there for so long you don’t even think about it. You know what’s not there? Or anywhere? Smallpox. The World Health Organization made sure (again in the last century) to wipe out this scourge. And it was done by — trigger warning, I’m going to use a scary word here — vaccine.

My daughter doesn’t have that scar though. Naturally occurring smallpox was eradicated in 1980 after an unprecedented global immunization campaign.

Had this disfiguring, sometimes deadly, disease still been around by this century, how do you think the anti-vaxxers would respond?

Measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox aren’t as horrible as smallpox. But they’re no walk in the park either. I had them all — as a child. And I wouldn’t dream of putting any child at risk of the complications that can happen with these illnesses because of thoroughly discounted crap I read from a B-grade actress on the Internet. I actually would take advice from the pediatrician who not only went to medical school, but had her own kids vaccinated.

Yet, because of group stupidity, we have measles outbreaks on both coasts. We have well-meaning, cluelessly misinformed parents having “chickenpox” parties to expose their children to this not-so-innocent childhood disease. Mumps are brutal — complications can include deafness, and male infertility. But we keep looking at all the information from what should be trusted sources — and then going with stupid. Former U.S. representative Michele Bachmann infamously claimed that the HPV vaccine, which prevents many cervical cancers (and is so effective, it is now given to males), makes the recipients “mentally retarded.”

Yeah. Yikes.

And then of course, there is countrywide and worldwide stupid.

The climate is changing. Seas are rising, droughts and floods are becoming more unpredictable, wildfires are raging hotter and longer than ever. The science has told us for years that climate change is man-made, and doing nothing is not an option.

So what have we decided to do? Well, nothing. We’ve doubled down on stupid. Let’s drill on protected lands, overfish the waters, hire climate deniers and label proposals such as the Green New Deal as a socialist plot designed to hurt the burgeoning coal mining industry. Because we don’t remember — or care really — about collapsed coal mines and black lung disease, we will pick stupid solutions to problems that we already know won’t work. We can’t do a Superman and spin the Earth back the other way to turn back time. We need to move forward, using the tools we have at our disposal, for information, innovation, and answers.

And for those who still insist on following the village idiots? We may have to leave them behind.

Unfortunately, as they say, you can’t fix stupid.

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