(Photo: Arlo Bates / Flickr)
I endured a moment of deep crisis on Thursday, upon realizing that there might actually be more Pure Dumb in the world than I was aware of.
Now, understand that I have been a Chronicler of Dumb for a very long time now. I am a Student of Dumb, and a well-worn one at that. I got my Bachelor’s Degree in the Study of Dumb during the Clinton impeachment. I got my Masters in the aftermath of the 2000 (s)election. It took a grueling eight years, but I got my first Ph.D in Dumb Studies during the George W. Bush administration. After that, earning my second Dumb Studies Ph.D came a lot easier over the last two years of observing and reporting on the demented frenzy of Dumb that has been emanating from a broad swath of the Republican Party since the election of a president who is a Democrat and also not White.
I know Dumb, my friends, inside and out. But this “story” sent me into a death-spiral of total incomprehension and self-doubt for longer than I care to be honest about in the telling. I stared at the headline for an hour – “Michelle Obama’s ‘Get Moving’ Program Linked To Pedestrian Deaths” – like a proto-human trying to figure out the Moon. I think I even made a few proto-humanoid utterances – “Gu ba? Fuh buh duh wah…urp?” – in the process of trying to work my way through those nine words. Slowly, painfully, as if I had a combination of sand and ground fiberglass in my eyes, I turned my gaze to the beginning of the actual article.
The Governors Highway Safety Association says pedestrian deaths increased in the first half of 2010 and the First Lady's program to get Americans to be more active could be partly responsible.
Fu bu duh wah?
You read that right.
The First Lady’s campaign to fight obesity by getting folks to – wait for it – walk around a bit is actually killing people. Michelle Obama is maiming and slaughtering amongst the masses by trying to get people to exercise.
It was at this point that I began to experience a deep and personal crisis of confidence. I thought I knew Dumb. I thought I understood Dumb. I thought, in fact, that I was moving beyond my superior scholastic degrees in the Study of Dumb to something more akin to Jedi status. And then here comes this thing, and wham! My legs get taken completely out from under me. I know nothing of Dumb, I said to myself in something close to wonder. I thought I did, but here is this vein of truly supernatural Dumb, here is Dumb with enough sheer mass to bend the very light.
I did not know this. Here was Dumb of epic proportions, and it had eluded me.
I was crushed.
Despondently, I read on. The rest of the article happened to mention that, well, yeah, more people are walking around with headphones in their ears – thanks to the rise of the iPod, cell phones that play music, and people who walk and talk on their cell phones and make you think they’re either talking to themselves or spouting gibberish at you, until you see the little earbug strapped to the side of their heads – and step into the road lost in their little dream world, unable to hear the screech of tires and blaring horn that would normally be the last sound they hear on earth…if they weren’t wearing headphones.
And, well, yeah, the article went on to mention in passing that there are entire legions of idiot drivers on the road who talk on cell phones and text their friends while manipulating very heavy and lethal machinery at high speeds through areas where other people are trying to walk. I live in Massachusetts, and they actually had to pass a law forbidding “Driving While Texting,” because “Having Just A Scintilla Of Common Sense” wasn’t getting the job done.
And, well, yeah, the ever-popular “Incredibly Drunk Person Who Wanders Into The Road And Gets Killed” got a mention in the article, along with what was described as “aggressive pedestrians,” a phenomenon I am all too familiar with in Boston. People around here hurl themselves into traffic as if they have 30 seconds to live and the cure is just across the street…sometimes wearing headphones, sometimes not, sometimes drunk, sometimes not, but definitely aggressive about it, and the local papers are filled each year with stories of such “aggressive pedestrians” losing their lives.
The lead paragraph – nay, the first two paragraphs and the headline – declared that First Lady Michelle Obama bears responsibilty for myriad deaths in America because of her fight against obesity. Her suggestion – hey you, walk around – has put the freight of many lost souls upon her head. She drowns in their blood.
I almost gave up right then and there. If this much Dumb could exist without my knowledge, I scolded myself, then I am no scholar, no Jedi.
But then, hey...wait a minute.
Hang on one damn minute.
The banner at the top of that article reads “Talk Radio.”
There is an advertisement in the banner for the Sean Hannity show.
Just below an advertisement for the Rush Limbaugh show.
And – how did I miss this? – a picture of Rush Limbaugh below the banner that is bigger than anything on the site.
Talk radio. Hannity. Rush. More Rush.
It was, I decided, the headline that threw me. I lost it for a bit there, but eventually figured it out. This is not some heretofore unknown species of Dumb that I had managed to miss, like a paleontologist who was unaware of the Tyrannosaurus Super-Rex living in his back yard.
This is just the Same Old Dumb.
I was restored.
Oh, and for the record: walking is awesome. My wife and I have not smoked a cigarette for a combined total of 70 days, and walking many miles has been a large part of the continued success of our quitting process. I am getting more fit, as is she, and the walking has as much to do with that as the lack of smoke in our lungs.
Thanks, Mrs. Obama. You played a part in saving our lives. Keep it up.