Monday, June 8, 2009

Cavalcade of Stupidity

I guess they don't call them the "fly-over states" for nothing. You know, the middle part of the country between the left and right coasts. The vast, nameless, faceless heartland, the place where the "real America" lives, as we are told over and over again. The backbone of this country, where stuff gets done and old-fashioned values and ideas still hold sway.

Apparently they are also the repository for all the stupidity and ignorance in this country, too. A small but significant news item came to my attention today. It seems someone who owns 5 Burger King franchises (which probably qualifies them as a business tycoon) somewhere in Arkansas or Missouri was using the signage attached to his restaurant to broadcast the opinion that "global warming is baloney." The Burger King corporate office was going after them because part of their franchise agreement says that they cannot use the restaurant to espouse any political position. Not that the message is complete idiocy, only that they shouldn't use the signs attached to the restaurant to spread the aforementioned idiocy.

Um... a sign on a Burger King? That's what amounts to a forum in that area? Really? And categorizing a complex environmental issue in a word such as "baloney?" Is that a scientific term? Are the schools in America that dismally incompetent that they produce adults with the intelligence and sophistication of a petulant six-year-old?

Just what will it take to get people to wake up to the global warming crisis? Does the Arctic ice have to completely melt away? Does the Arctic tundra have to melt and release enormous quantities of heat-trapping methane gas into our already-stressed atmosphere? Methane is like 200 times more efficient than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere. Do all the world's glaciers have to melt over the next 50 years and cut off supplies of fresh water to millions of people? Does the sea level have to rise three feet and radically change the coastline of the United States, essentially redrawing the maps of Florida and New York City? Instead, despite these and many other documented, scientifically validated warning signs of impending ecological disaster, we get some moron with his flame-broiled Whoppers dismissing this crisis as "baloney."

I will never understand why people in this country wear their stupidity and ignorance like a badge of honor. Why is there such an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in American culture? It starts in the schools, where the smart, brainy kids are labeled as "geeks" and "nerds" and athletic achievement is very much prized over scholastic achievement. Americans are so intellectually lazy, they just don't expend any effort to understand the issues which affect all of us; indeed, affect the entire world. Admittedly some issues are rather complicated but they can be framed in such a way that most people would be able to understand the underlying concepts. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth documentary does this incredibly well. But no, Americans choose the easy way out and ignore the signs and evidence under their very noses, preferring instead to do the ostrich-head-in-the-sand bit and pretend nothing is wrong. It must come from a culture where everything you want is available to you and the rest of the world is merely a giant warehouse for stuff you want and a garbage dump for stuff you don't.

Worse yet, they often use religion as their defense. A congressman from Kansas went on record as saying that global warming was a hoax, because only God can cause the end of the world and mankind has nothing to do with it. And I'm sure many people went along with that. That's just a convenient way of absolving themselves from any blame for the mess things are in right now, and responsibility for taking any action in the future which would work to avert a catastrophe. After all, why do anything to reverse global warming if it's all up to God, anyway? Just forget about it and go on with your lives, it's out of your hands. The same thing is happening with the phony debate around "evolution vs. intelligent design". There is not one iota of scientific evidence for intelligent design, but volumes of evidence for evolution. People refuse to learn anything about the science underlying evolution because it's just a whole lot easier to say that a supreme being created everything and be done with it. No messy fossil record or natural selection to deal with.

Now I realize that not all people who live between the coasts are complete dimwits, I'm sure there are many of them who are as appalled as I am with the arrogant, deliberate dumbness of their neighbors. Living in the backwards, regressive state of Arizona I certainly have no room to criticize any other state. And I am not begrudging people the freedom to believe in religion or anything else they want to believe in. It's just when their ignorance and stupidity starts getting in the way of taking steps to solve a problem about which we are getting very clear, unmistakable warning signs and when their religious delusions start to influence local and regional decision-making that the real damage occurs. Not just to them, but to every living creature on this planet. And that is definitely unacceptable and something no one has the "right" to do.

In the end, it won't be a foreign terrorist with a bioweapon or a nuke in a suitcase which will truly spell the end to America, it will be the ignorance of their citizens, who steadfastly and deliberately wallow in their own stupidity and continue to think they've found safety in the darkness of religion and superstition. Fat, dumb and happy, they go on their way as if nothing at all is happening, just like cattle to the slaughterhouse.

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