Stupid Is As Stupid Does, And America Does It

From a 2006 essay titled ‘History and National Stupidity’ by Arthur Schlesinger, quoted in Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason:

Sometimes, when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity – the stupidity of our leadership, the stupidity of our culture. 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 argument for a case of national stupidity.

In the meantime, let a thousand historical flowers bloom. History is never a closed book or a final verdict. It is always in the making. Let historians not forsake the quest for knowledge, however tricky and full of problems that quest may be, in the interests of an ideology, a nation, a race, a sex, or a cause. The great strength of the practice of history in a free society is its capacity for self-correction.

Of course, it would help if Americans would actually read history, instead of getting it in predigested chunks in Rambo movies and the History Channel. It would help if Americans actually were taught to think in school instead of just to fill in the multiple-choice answers that pass for educational assessment these days. It would help if the media acted as if they actually had a responsibility to the country, to the citizenry, instead of to shareholders who don’t give a damn about either the media or the country.

But that’s asking too much these days. The Republicans put forth two world-class liars and hypocrites to lead the nation into the future, and they are applauded for the trivia of their lives and minds instead of examined for their substance. We are beyond national stupidity, and are well into delusion and psychosis.

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