Struggling to Understand

New York Times Senior Opinion Staff Editor Alexandra Sifferlin wrote a piece on Monday triggered by the Covid-19 death of sports journalist Grant Wahl while covering the World Cup in Qatar. Her story was not about his death. It was about the “anti-vaxxers [who] were quick to blame his death on the Covid-19 vaccine.”

Questions pop off the page, like why would people believe fact-free conspiracy rumors about the vaccines, canards that were spread by non-doctors and non-scientists and hateful rumor generators? Think: injecting bleach. And why would anyone invade the grief so many are feeling and dump cruelty on these innocents? Wait: this gets worse.

Sifferlin continues, “Céline Gounder is an infectious disease doctor and epidemiologist [i.e. a doctor and a scientist] and has been a prominent voice on the Covid-19 pandemic. She is also Wahl’s widow and has been sent numerous emails and voice mail messages blaming her for his death because of her support for vaccines.” Cruelty amplified.

Let this stand as a placeholder for so many forms of anti-social behavior that have become commonplace, like:

neighbors yelling vitriolic slurs at school board meetings

bullies making death threats to citizens doing patriotic things, like being poll workers

thugs committing murder – mass shootings or otherwise – that are encouraged by people broadcasting loathing in order to inflame anger and hatred

I’ve just begun reading Andy Borowitz’s new book, Profiles in Ignorance: How America’s Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber (see Fine Print #5 below). In his introduction he writes,

“We’ll retrace the steps of the vacuous pioneers who turned ignorance from a liability into a virtue. By relentlessly lowering the bar, they made it possible for today’s politicians to wear their dunce caps with pride. Gone are the days when leaders had to hide how much they didn’t know. Now cluelessness is an electoral asset and smart politicians must play dumb, or risk voters’ wrath. Welcome to the survival of the dimmest.”

The standout part of that is that cluelessness is mandatory or politicians will “risk voters’ wrath.” That means that the driving force of politicians’ proud ignorance is a public that wants them to be clueless. What’s going on with us that we rejoice in being uninformed and, worse, dumb? And why wouldn’t we want our leaders to be smart – smarter than the average bear – so they can make good choices for us?

We must want to be clueless and dumb in order to believe absurd conspiracy idiocy, like that there are giant Jewish space lasers igniting wild fires in California, that the moon landings were faked, that there is a Hillary Clinton sex trafficking operation in a non-existent basement of a DC pizza restaurant and all the rest.

Surely, there’s more to this than cluelessness. Ignorance doesn’t explain the ongoing undermining of our democracy by people proclaiming themselves to be patriots. (See: “oxymoron” with emphasis on the “moron.”) It doesn’t explain thousands trashing the Capitol Building and preparing to lynch the Vice President and Speaker of the House and defecating in the Rotunda. It doesn’t explain thugs in camo carrying AR-15s strutting around the entrances to polling places. Love of ignorance is a prerequisite for all of that, but it doesn’t explain the fear and rage and cruelty.

I’m a Boomer and distinctly recall President Kennedy declaring, “College is America’s best friend.” Of course, there were practical reasons for that, such as that we were in a cold war against a belligerent Russian bear and we needed smart, well educated people to be technical geniuses so we could defend our nation. Nobody argued for cluelessness. Nobody declared war on wisdom and learning, but that’s changed.

What’s going on that we cram theocracy into our public schools and steal public school tax money and give it to fund parochial schools? Why did we let George W. Bush get away with his attack on the First Amendment by shifting government education funds to “faith-based initiatives?” What’s going on that some opportunistic politicians are Big Brothering our schools to limit what children can learn and they’re burning books? How come some seem to want us to return to the massive ignorance that existed prior to the Age of Enlightenment?

Somehow a great deal has changed and we have a profound disdain for wisdom and learning. Far more dangerous is the anger toward people who think. We’re in an age of visceral primacy, where “Me getting what I want is all that matters and I’m pleased to stomp on anyone who sees things differently. Fie on education, learning and critical thinking!”

How did we elect pretty-face-empty-head Ronald Reagan? Why did we elect doofus frat boy George W. Bush? Why did we fall for an obvious con artist, Mr. 30,000 lies? Why don’t we want all of our presidents to be smart and well informed? Also, patriotic.

What has happened that we seem to prefer rage over everything else? Are we to return to some semblance of appreciation for learning and wisdom and of one another, or will we continue until the few of us left are living in caves? If we are to drop the primacy of cruelty that endangers us all, what has to happen? How will that come about?

I’m struggling to understand this.

Do Some Supporting

The mouse is now Speaker of the House and the legislative terrorists – the “Tear-Down Party” – are in control of him. Brace yourself, because this is going to be an extremely turbulent two years.

As those fifteen embarrassing elections were happening in the House of Representatives, I emailed my congressman, Brad Schneider (D-IL10), with a simple message:

Hang in there! Gotcher back as you fight the good fight.

He sent an appreciative reply.

There are a lot of people in Congress who do that every day – they fight the good fight. That’s in spite of the fact that they hear every day from people who are mad at government and mad at them. They get irrational demands thrown at them. They get hate mail. They get threats.

I figure that now and then they need to hear from the people who know they’re doing the right thing. They need to hear a thanks for standing tall in the face of cruelty and oppression and madness. They can use some validation that they’re on the right side, reassurance that they’re representing us properly.

So, I have a suggestion and a request: Call or text your senators and congressperson and let them know that you appreciate them fighting the good fight and that you have their back. and

And if they’re on the wrong side, call or text them and say that you see them for what they are and what they’re doing and that you have the back of whoever opposes them.

Classified Documents Found in Biden’s Old Office

I’m shocked – SHOCKED!to learn that Fox-Never-Was-News is horrified by a revelation about a Democrat.

O’ the stupefaction of it all!

An Update On the Rotary of Northbrook Coat Drive

Ref: The last section of this post.

Text pasted from Rotary:

The Final Count.  831 winter coats plus around a dozen boxes of gloves/hats/scarves/boots.  In terms of winter coats, we are confident this is more than last year. Most have already been distributed to 9 charity organizations/locations, with the final boxes (pictured below) for World Relief Chicago, PADS, and a fifth dropoff at Connections for the Homeless all scheduled for next week.  Two Men and a Truck will donate transportation for these boxes for a fourth straight week. So far, five organizations have received at least a first installment of coats:  Refugee One, Stock the Shelves, Connections for the Homeless, Ethiopian Community Association (refugees), and Deerfield Free Store.







A bunch of people will be warmer now. Thanks and kudos to all who contributed!

  • ————————————
  • Our governance and electoral corruption and dysfunction and our ongoing mass murders are all of a piece, all the same problem with the same solution:
  • Fire the bastards!

The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  5. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town or neighborhood vibrant.



Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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2 Responses to Cluelessness
  1. Jay Becker Reply

    Fascism requires hordes of mindless followers, dedicated to whatever the Fearless Leader declares. Facts and science are obstacles to be swept aside. Having created and encouraged armed violence by such hordes, the leader can no longer “put the genie back in the bottle.” I welcome the ban on assault rifles in Illinois but it won’t stop the killings. (See armed attacks on Dem elected officials in Colorado.)

    We need to seriously rethink a whole system that brought forward and increasingly relies on fascism to survive. Because that’s where this is headed and the Democratic administration continues to eschew prosecution of the leaders of the coup attempt. When will they try again? Brazil shows they’re honing their skills. If only US law enforcement responded as resolutely as Brazil’s appears to have!

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Jay, when we first met I thought your warnings about fascism were overblown, but the more I’ve seen the more I think you have it right.

      Hitler grabbed power incrementally using the laws at the time to distort a government and then an entire country. We’re seeing the same thing happen here. The latest is the extortion committed by the extremists during the voting for Speaker of the House. McCarthy may not be the worst, but he gave away all his power to the worst of them.

      I’m wanting the American public to wake up to the ongoing theft of our democracy and it’s happening – but too slowly.