- Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1837
As usual clueless pundits across the 24/7 “news” spectrum are scratching butts and pontificating this morning on exactly how the Repuke Ratbag Mark Sanford could “come back from the scrap heap only four years ago!” In the end, they tap danced all around the central core reason, blabbing instead about his ingenuity, or pluck, or resourcefulness and yes…..political savvy. All of which is balderdash! In truth there’d have been no Sanford redemption except for: a)The fool claiming to be “saved by God’s grace, b) Having enough stupid voters (mostly Rs ) believe it, and c) rampant gerrymandering of key districts to award any GOOpr an automatic nearly unbeatable margin in any contest.
Sanford, as we know, caroused and cavorted with a Brazilian hottie gf some 4 years ago – running up SC deficits on the taxpayer dime with trips to Brazil, even as he cheated on his wife. Did the SC voters remember this? Of course not - given most ‘Muricans have the memories of gnats.
Susan Jacoby, in her book ‘The Age of American Unreason’ has noted the profound lack of American historical memory. It’s actually a pathological deficiency. She ties this (Ch. 11, ‘Defining Dumbness Downward’) to an erosion of basic civic literacy that spans the political-economic spectrum. One of her most stirring quotes (from historian Arthur Schlesinger) on p. 319 refers to our deplorable memory regarding wars fought over the last four decades. As she quotes Schlesinger :
“Thirty years ago we suffered military defeat- fighting an unwinnable war against a country about which we knew nothing. Vietnam was bad enough but to repeat the same experiment thirty years later in Iraq is a strong case for national stupidity”
Well, so is the electoral "resurrection" of Mark Sanford, despite his personal history. But maybe too many evangelicals – of which there are many in the state- really did believe this rat’s claim of “saved by God’s grace”. (Of course, mass killer/ rapist Ted Bundy made the same claim in FLA hours before his execution, but he still got fried by Old Sparky.)
Anyway, Jacoby reinforces Schlesinger’s take on American stupidity, noting (p. 310) "“two thirds of us can’t find
Ms. Jacoby also exposes the political cretinism of our leaders. On p. 284, for example, she cites the classic example of the dummy’s retort, when during Bush Jr’s second term NBC correspondent David Gregory posed a question at a dual press conference, to French President Jacques Chirac. The Bushster, a congenital idiot, was standing alongside Chirac, and grew vexed when Gregory posed the question in French. After a few seconds, the Texas Turkey snarled:
“Very good! The guy memorizes a few words and he plays like he’s intercontinental!”
The Bozo actually believed Gregory memorized his question in French!!
As Jacoby correctly observes, this is the classic case for intellectually- stunted people. Because they themselves lack the wherewithal to learn a foreign language, they interpret others’ correct use as an instance of “memorizing”. Of course, the very same applies to any other complex subjects – whether calculus or advanced physics – to which the generic dummy is exposed. He will always give the knee jerk reaction that anyone who is into it or uses it is “memorizing”. He simply can't believe, his pea brain is too astonished to admit it- some people can actually LEARN this material and apply it!
But would that more Americans - even if deficient in many intellectual areas- would strive to memorize at least their recent history more, then we’d have fewer political and economic tragedies. Including thoughts of attacking Iran, OR putting a tool like Mark Sanford back in office. Now, would I - if a South Carolinian- FORGIVE Sanford his trespasses? Of course! But having done that I’m not going to reward him with a frickin’ Senate seat!
Finally, only one person named the central reason that Sanford would likely win the special SC election: Rachel Maddow. She pointed out the extreme gerrymandering that’s transpired since 2010 when the Repuke Tea Partyers seized control of state legislatures. In the case of the district where Sanford competed against Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the original highly Democratic areas were gerrymandered out of the district. This meant that a cakewalk was almost certain barring Sanford being caught in a restroom with a dog doing the nasty.
So, what does it all show? That Americans aim at low objects, and as Emerson noted (see top quote) this leads to the nation consuming itself and its own seed corn. Jacoby offers the solutions, but one doubts very many will accept them. They start with reading books (serious nonfiction, not just light fictional fare) and ….Voila! Newspapers! As she notes the typical newspaper reader is light years ahead of his non-reading compatriot in being familiar with national issues, policies, as well as more likely to be a critical thinker.
College students also need to cease “aiming at low objects”. Jacoby’s examples on pp. 314- 15 are telling. She observes “courses in popular culture are extremely popular”. Why? Probably because it’s easier to snatch an ‘A’ than taking a physics course! But as she implies, for any student to waste time “deconstructing” Stephen King is a waste of their college dollars. They’d instead be more justified reading Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ and subjecting it to a deep analysis, not merely cartoonish barf based on Derridian “Postmodernism”.
Very likely , even given the gerrymandering, Mark Sanford never would have won last night’s election had more South Carolinians aimed higher, and not at low objects, and low expectations. On that score Alex Pareene's observation this morning at salon.com is very cogent: “The truly disturbing thing is not that Mark Sanford won a special election in 2013, but that he was ever considered a viable running mate option in 2008 or a 2012 presidential hopeful. There’s really no hope for us, if the country insists on dividing its votes almost equally between the center-left party and the party of people who still think there’s any redeeming quality in “'Atlas Shrugged'.”
But then, as "low objects" go, Ayn Rand's books are near the bottom of the totem pole. Well, at least they're a tad above Stephen King's novels!