PIERCE-ING THE GUT OF AMERICA
Welcome to Idiot America.
LET'S TAKE A TOUR, shall we? For the sake of time, we'll just cover the last year or so. A federally funded abstinence program suggests that HIV can be transmitted through tears. An Alabama legislator proposes a bill to ban all books by gay authors. The Texas House passes a bill banning suggestive cheerleading. And nobody laughs at any of it, or even points out that, in the latter case, having Texas ban suggestive cheerleading is like having Nebraska ban corn. James Dobson, a prominent conservative Christian spokesman, compares the Supreme Court to the Ku Klux Klan. Pat Robertson, another prominent conservative preacher, says that federal judges are a more serious threat to the country than is Al Qaeda and, apparently taking his text from the Book of Gambino, later sermonizes that the United States should get with it and snuff the democratically
elected president of Venezuela.
The Congress of the United States intervenes to extend into a televised spectacle the prolonged death of a woman in Florida. The majority leader of the Senate, a physician, pronounces a diagnosis based on heavily edited videotape. The majority leader of the House of Representatives argues against cutting-edge research into the use of human stem cells by saying that "an embryo is a person. ... We were all at one time embryos ourselves. So was Abraham. So was Muhammad. So was Jesus of Nazareth." Nobody laughs at him or points out that the same could be said of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, or whoever invented the baby-back rib.
And, finally, in August, the cover of Time——for almost a century the dyspeptic voice of the American establishment——clears its throat, hems and haws and hacks like a headmaster gagging on his sherry, and asks, quite seriously: "Does God have a place in science class?"
Fights over evolution—and its faddish new camouflage, intelligent design, a pseudoscience that posits without proof or method that science is inadequate to explain existence and that supernatural causes must be considered—roil up school districts across the country. The president of the United States announces that he believes ID ought to be taught in the public schools on an equal footing with the theory of evolution. And in Dover, Pennsylvania, during one of these many controversies, a pastor named Ray Mummert delivers the line that both ends our tour and, in every real sense, sums it up:
"We've been attacked," he says, "by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."
And there it is.
The entire piece glistens with humorously evocative turns of phrase, but this passage is perhaps most germane to the most recent imbroglios with functionally decorticate strangers into which I myself have waded:
The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise ... In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who has ever tossed a golf club, punched a wall, or kicked an errant lawn mower knows. We occasionally dress up the Gut by calling it "common sense." The president's former advisor on medical ethics regularly refers to the "yuck factor." The Gut is common. It is democratic. It is the roiling repository of dark and ancient fears. Worst of all, the Gut is faith-based.
If you don't fork over the $2.95 required to access the full text, you're cheating yourself.
When I get around to writing more, I'll highlight examples of individual contributors to the collective Gut and its roiling, borborygmic convulsions.