I used to reject the argument that rightwingerism is largely a function of intelligence, or more to the point, of lower intelligence. I felt it didn't adequately account for the few bright spots in the rightwing constellation. You know, like... hmmm, oh yeah, there's that dead guy - talked like he had a mouth-full of marbles, dripped elitism and condescension like it was oozing out of his pores. Come to think of it, he wasn't all that smart either. He just had a lot of peculiar upperclass mannerisms and elite eccentricities that masqueraded as intellect. He was the product of some snooty university one could be sure. He may have been smarter than your average rightwinger...but that's really not saying very much.
Cut to the tragi-comic Republican primary, or as I call it, Ignorance on Parade. At such a moment as this, a time dumber than anyone ever could have imagined, the truth is painfully obvious: those on the right are the absolute dumbasses of our world...the walking dumb. They're the ones in whom the conservative dumbing-down policies of the past few decades actually took. Seems they shot themselves right smack in their own foot...yet again.
I mean srsly, how dumb do you have to be to believe:
evolution is just another theory
global warming is a hoax
capitalism is healthy
the rich deserve everything
the rest of you poor schmucks deserve nothing
war is just peachy and a fine way to make friends around the world
politics is all about religion
education is a plot to make our children liberals
everything is better privatized
modern society should be based on an ancient holy book that nobody understands
These are people who (admittedly to varying degrees) reject science, fear education, hate progress in any form and desperately wish to drag us all backwards into the Dark Ages. Ipso facto, prima facie, res ipsa loquitur.
This isn't even getting into how venal they are, how hate-filled and vicious. I haven't even mentioned bigotry, racism, privilege, arrogance or arrogance's big brother hubris. I haven't even obliquely referred to their absolute unconcern for the poor, the suffering, the unfortunate, the tortured, the collateral damage. If it ain't profits baby...let it bleed.
I was once invited to spend some time with an old friend I hadn't seen in years. Sadly, and I can't tell you how many times this has happened, he had gone all winger on me. I always do my best to educate anyone who seems to need it, provided they're receptive (and provided I'm not the one in need of education). My friend listened to me in earnest but just didn't get it. His head was full of nonsense straight out of Fox News. He couldn't believe that I didn't know that Hillary was a lesbian. Of course he didn't know that Bush et al were lying their asses off about yellow cake so as to lie us into an immoral war in Iraq.
He was also convinced that taxes were evil and that any and all criticism of capitalism was treasonous. Some of his views were arguable (e.g. taxation can theoretically become onerous or counterproductive even though we know that nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the actual situation with our 1%) but most were mystifying and/or nonsensical....or, to be completely honest, dumber than dirt.
He almost heard me once, when I was explaining to him about how not all taxes are bad...like the ones that pay for roads and stuff. There was a glimmer of light there...for a moment.
I once mentioned how much I'd enjoy taking him to Paris to visit some of the wonders I recall from having lived there years ago. He had never been abroad but this did not keep him from rejecting the entire concept. “Why would I want to go to some other country when I am already in the best country in the world?”
He was serious.
“How would you even know?” was my response. He was perfectly willing and in fact insisted upon rejecting the entire remainder of the world, sight unseen, for the sake of clinging to a rightwing meme: the USA is number one baby! Which brings me to another point regarding the dumbassery of the right: they are sooo damned literal. If you call one of them a son-of-a-bitch (sorry, I know that's an ugly word) they think you're actually referring to their mother. Whether or not they take offense has to do entirely with how they feel about their mom.
So I say to my friend, “If I paid your way round-trip all expenses, you mean to tell me you wouldn't want to go to France to see something new? Try something new? Taste something new?” No way he insisted. I told him in glorious detail about the smell of a boulangerie in the morning, the wonders of foreign language and culture, the exquisite dining and various novelties and curiosities that Paris, and foreign travel in general present. Not interested. This is the land of the 72 ounce sirloin. Let the cheese-eating surrender monkeys beat that!
I suspect that somewhere deep in the recesses of his brain he actually envisioned French people as diminutive monkeys flying little white flags, perhaps with berets cocked jauntily on their furry little heads...a wheel of cheese under one arm...a baguette under the other...maybe a bottle or two of a good Burgundy dangling from each paw...maybe even flying monkeys for all I know. The only thing we can be sure of is that whatever was going on in his head, it had absolutely nothing to do with reality.
His objection to travel wasn't just because it was France. When I mentioned Laos, Thailand or China he looked at me with that look that says, “Are you fucking insane?”
He simply lacked all curiosity, and he took it as an article of faith that the good ole USA is and will always be the best damned place in the universe. Why go anywhere else?
Why go anywhere else indeed.
The intellectually unwary have been caught in traps that make them easy to manipulate. The Tea Party consists entirely of these, as does the regular viewing audience of Fox News and the Republican Party though I suspect I may be guilty of a triple redundancy. These are people who think, believe and do as they're told. It's all very neat and simple and it's no accident that it bears so many of the earmarks of organized religion. You swallow the articles of faith, vow to never question them and you are welcomed home. You don't have to think, worry or trouble your little old head with weighty matters, it's all here for you in this little book. See how easy? Just tune in to Fox News for further instruction.
I used to think the Republican dumb-down plan for America was about having plenty of workers smart enough to do their jobs but not smart enough to wonder why. Now I think it may be more about self-preservation. Without a steady supply of dumbasses the Republican Party would dry up and blow away. This is all the more reason to reverse their dumbass dumb-down plan, make American education sparkle like a diamond and then give it away for free. Not make it “more affordable,” not provide student loans with “easier terms,” not provide parents and students with a “convenient layaway plan,” but make it abundantly available for free. It's one of the main places where all those taxes we aren't collecting from the rich and their blessed corporations should be going.
Education is a benefit to the entire society and all its stakeholders. We should provide the highest quality education possible, which means pouring resources into teacher pay and development as a beginning, and we should give it away for free. That's what a society that really cared about its own members would do. Its what they do in Finland. In Finland, all citizens are welcome to as much high quality education as they want and as much free high quality healthcare as they need. We desperately need to be more like them. If we weren't so dumb we would be.
Many of my old friends who were intellectually and/or educationally challenged have gone winger it seems – a natural enough progression I suppose, given the circumstances. I mean with so many people spending so much money to make stupid people believe stupid shit. It's not like it's all that hard to fool dummies. If it were, we wouldn't have Fox News or Republicans or a Military Industrial Complex...but we do. And all we can do is resist and push back against the rising tide of sheer dumbassery. I think we may be making strides too. The Republican freak show currently underway should be a revealing moment for a lot of people in this country, especially after all we've seen in the past decade. We can't be sure how many are paying attention, but we can always hope. And we can always poke 'em with a stick (metaphorically speaking of course) and wake their dumbasses up.
The only antidote to ignorance is education. To my winger friends (should there be any remaining): education is not a plot to make you a liberal, honest. Of course once you know something, who knows what might happen?