They walk among us: Tales of utter stupidity

You know the acronym SMH—for “shaking my head”—that’s used in texting and on social media? Well, I’ve been SMH so much these days that I’m afraid I’m going to get whiplash. Because…stupidity.

I’ll be the first to admit I do or say dumb things sometimes (like recently showing up a week early for a lunch date with a friend. And a few weeks later, totally blowing off lunch with another friend because I forgot to write it down.).

Now, I really don’t mean to sound judgy (well, maybe I do). But seriously, have you ever watched an episode of “America’s Funniest Home Videos?” Or Jimmy Fallon’s “man on the street” interviews? Or perused the annual Darwin Awards? And don’t even get me started on the 1 in 3 Americans recently polled who don’t know Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing.

From these examples, it’s all too easy to conclude that our country’s gene pool has become seriously diluted. Here are a few more reasons why:

Ain’t that a pisser!

The Associated Press reported in July 2016 that police evacuated an Amherst, Massachusetts apartment complex because of a strong smell caused by a man cooking urine. The building manager received a complaint of a “pungent odor” coming from one unit and found some unmarked glass containers containing number one. The pee-burning man wasn’t criminally charged—I guess because stupidity isn’t a crime.

And in the burning bridges department…

A few years ago, some new folks moved into our covenant-protected neighborhood and started installing an in-ground pool. When informed the pool encroached into the side setback, they continued construction despite warnings they’d be violating the covenants and risk having a lien imposed. When the community’s board actually imposed the lien, these homeowners not only turned around and sued the association—their neighbors—but also lamented that no one wanted to befriend them. Um, seriously? P.S. They had to move the pool.

Man runs himself over en route home from strip club

A 28-year-old Florida man fell out of his truck while driving home from a strip club, ran over his own leg, then ran away. His truck kept running, too, rolling into a nearby house and injuring a 58-year-old woman inside, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The man was later found and arrested since he conveniently left an ID in the truck. Shoulda buckled up, dude.

Didn’t quite grasp the concept

Shortly after we moved to Maine—and into a house surrounded by woods—Hubs went out to buy a blaze orange hat to wear while working in the yard during deer-hunting season. While he was in the checkout line at a local retailer, two young women behind him remarked on his brightly colored hat, and Hubs explained its purpose as protection during hunting season. One of the young women asked, “But how does the hat keep the deer away?” You can’t make this stuff up.

Sure, these anecdotes are amusing (sort of), but they underscore a much greater problem, which Maine author Alan Caron described in an article entitled “America is suffering from a dangerous knowledge deficit.”

In his piece, Caron contends that our country is drowning in a rising tide of stupidity, and cites some startling statistics as proof, including:

  • 68% of public school third-graders cannot read proficiently
  • The U.S. once led the world in the number of young people with college degrees; we’re now in 12th place
  • We’re 52nd in the quality of university math and science instruction
  • 40% of Americans under age 44 haven’t read a book in the past year
  • Two-thirds of Americans can’t name the three branches of our federal government
  • Only 40% know we have 100 senators in the U.S Congress
  • 42% think the Constitution establishes English as our national language
  • 25% believe the Constitution establishes Christianity as our national religion
  • 42% believe God created human beings less than 10,000 years ago
  • 3 out of 4 Republicans in the U.S. Senate and half in the House deny the validity of climate change despite warnings of virtually every major reputable scientific organization in the world

Caron also cautions us to not confuse stupidity with ignorance or lack of education. “Stupid is different,” he writes. “To win a degree in stupid, you have to willfully reject facts in favor of superstitions, myths, fears and conspiracy theories. And then get all your news from fake or biased news sites targeted at the stupid.” And, I might add, believe in alternative facts–like a certain POTUS seems wont to do.

So what’s the answer? Short of hitting everyone with a smart stick, here are a few strategies we can undertake:

  • Educate yourself and your children (I know I need to get reacquainted with the U.S. Constitution, for example)
  • Read!
  • Call out stupidity and counter it with verifiable facts
  • Don’t pass along fake news on social media—fact check before you share
  • Get your news from multiple, reputable sources
  • Remember the baby boomer byword from the sixties: Question authority

And follow the advice of Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell: “Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people—or find a different room.”

If stupidity
were a crime, too many folks
would be serving life.

What do you think about the state of the union’s IQ? Got some funny stories to tell? Some strategies to help us be smarter? Please share…

Roxanne Jones

About Roxanne Jones

By day, Roxanne Jones is an award-winning freelance copywriter specializing in health and medicine. She launched Boomer Haiku, a humorous blog about life as a baby boomer, in 2015, and a Boomer Haiku greeting card line in 2016 (available at 6 Maine stores; visit www.boomerhaiku.com/shop/ to learn more). Born and raised in Brunswick, she left Maine after high school (Class of 1971) and, after living in Massachusetts and California, came screaming back to her home state in 2006. She enjoys chardonnay, laughing at the foibles and frustrations of getting older, and contemplates plastic surgery to get rid of the wattle on her neck.