Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Confederacy of Dunces

On the eve of the Vice Presidential debate, I am sickened by the attitude of the Republican spin machine that is now glorifying ordinariness, and stigmatizing exceptionalism. It's as if it's not cool to be educated, to aspire to high-mindedness, to be well read, to get a PhD., be an intellectual. You're to be ridiculed if you are smart and know the answers to simple questions about U.S. history and books or newspapers.

Sam Stein in the Huffington Post writes: "McCain aide Meg Stapleton was also playing up Palin's "Joe Six-Pack" attributes, even arguing that Palin's "experience as an ordinary American" qualified her to be "one heartbeat away" from the Oval Office...

You have got to be kidding? I'm afraid not. There's more: "if she becomes president of the United States, she is ready, and that is because she has the experience of an ordinary American who can get in there and knows what is on people's minds and what people need."

Simply put, the Republicans are advocating that your friendly couch potato, next door neighbor is qualified to be President of the United States. Is this the message we want to tell the world? Or ourselves? "Kick it DOWN a notch...or two." This is terrifying. More than the bail out.

The United States already has grim illiteracy rates:

Illiteracy Statistics

  • 42 million American adults can't read at all; 50 million are unable to read at a higher level that is expected of a fourth or fifth grader.
  • The number of adults that are classified as functionally illiterate increases by some 2.25 million each year.
  • 20 percent of all graduating high school seniors can be classified as being functionally illiterate.

Source: National Right to Read Foundation

Where Illiteracy Leads

  • 70 percent of state and federal prisoners can be classified as illiterate.
  • 85 percent of all juvenile offenders may be classified as functionally or marginally illiterate.
  • 43 percent of those whose literacy skills are lowest live in poverty.

Source: National Institute for Literacy

This is what happens when you can't read. You end up in prison or in a lifetime of poverty. But the Republicans want you to believe that, if you do read a bit or know just enough to 'get by', and have a cute personality, guess what? You can, at the very least, be Vice President of the United States.

If, as Jonathan Swift said,
"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." Does that mean that we simply haven't recognized the true genius that is Sarah Palin? If not, I will happily be called a dunce.

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