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I’ve always admired Albert Einstein, but not just for his development of special and general relativity.
Sure, those are pretty nifty theories and make for fun reading when nothing is on TV, but what I really like about Albie was how easily he was able to summarize important social issues.
His assessment of intelligence said it all: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”
Long before Albie’s observation, Dante Alighieri (‘Devil Boy’ to his friends) had compartmentalized life into tidy little tiers called the nine circles of human stupidity.
We dare not descend to the lowest depths and so I’ll limit this discussion to just five or six circles.
As we venture into the first circle, we survey your average abyss of common sense, people who seem to think that thinking is a bad thing.
You know, like women who don’t go swimming while pregnant because they don’t want the baby to drown.
Stoners who call the police to report that someone stole their illegal drugs.
People who buy burnt grilled cheese sandwiches on eBay because they portray the Virgin Mary’s image. Contestants on “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?” Contestants who lose on that show. It’s a pretty big circle.
Next, we enter the second circle, a true void of rhyme or reason.
The land is inhabited by the truly inane, such as radical clerics who claim that promiscuous women are the cause of earthquakes.
Other circus acts live here, too, like a popular political conservative commentator who said that the volcanic eruption in Iceland was God’s way of expressing displeasure at the passing of President Obama’s health care plan.
Or another political mouthpiece who claimed that hurricane Katrina was God’s way of punishing us for abortions in the U.S.
This circle also smells pretty bad.
Descending lower, we find ourselves in the third circle, a repository of questionable quotes by politicians, a testament to the thinking it took to put these jokers into office.
Listen to some of the best of the worst. Marion Barry (Mayor of Washington D.C.): “If you take out the killings, Washington D.C. actually has a very low crime rate.”
President George W. Bush: “I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don’t always agree with them.”
Col. Gerald Wellman (ROTC Instructor): “We don’t necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people.”
And of course, Dan Quayle: “If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.”
Enough of that, let’s move on. I can only take so much of their wisdom. Moving down the well, we come to, uh, um. Naw, we’ll just skip past the fourth circle. Glenn doesn’t like unannounced visitors.
Entering the fifth circle, we find a virtual dust bowl of intellect on the old plains of plain old stupidity.
Here we find regressive wingnuts spreading rumors that the health care reform bill will mandate that microchips be implanted in Americans.
For example, after listening to testimony from a schizophrenic witness who claimed that the Department of Defense had placed an electronic beeper in her sexual organs, the state of Georgia passed a bill banning the implantation of microchips or beepers in human cavity areas.
Virginia followed suit by passing legislation that limits the use of microchips on humans “to prevent Satan’s minions from proliferating the mark of the beast.”
Yeah, I know, it’s hard to believe this is true.
But sadly, this circle is alive and well and elected to lead in those states.
You know, they can’t even make this stuff up in comic books.
As we leave this circle we next enter the - oh no! Jan Brewer! Judy Burges! John Kavanagh! Russell Pearce!
We’ve gone too far! We’re in Arizona! Turn around and run for your intellectual lives!
As we rush back to the sane side of the gates of stupidity, we can fully appreciate the true genius shared by our friend, Forrest, who once quipped “Stupid is as stupid does,” and quake in the knowledge that stupid does most everywhere you look today.
John Pawlak is a teacher at LAHS.