Here we go again, another week with scores of emails landing in my Inbox from total strangers. It’s déjà vu about what my column focused on last week: The dumbing-down of America.
I first wrote on that subject three weeks ago and that column was picked up and distributed by the Yahoo News website, meaning people from Lawndale in Logan County to Timbuktu and points in between could read it. I wasn’t aware of that until a bunch of emails began pouring my way, from people who said they read my piece on Yahoo News and felt compelled to respond. Last week, my column included several of those responses.
Yahoo News also picked up and published that column late last week, thus a fresh batch of new emails. Here are a few, beginning with one of the rare messages that didn’t agree with my opinion.
I’ll give the writer of that particular response credit for one thing: Johnny Hockey certainly is a practitioner of word economy. He well knows how to get his point across with very few words. Here is his message to me:
“You’re an idiot.”
Thank you, Mr. Hockey, for not mincing words. You would probably put the same label on the many folks who wrote responses indicating they also are watching, some in horror, at the dumbing-down of the U.S. citizenry. Some of those comments are below:
From Peter Murtough: “We embrace your article on the dumbing-down of America.
“My family and I have been speaking of this regularly since November 8, 2016, as well the verbally combative months leading up to that day and of course the unparalleled wake up call as we watched and listened to the January 20, 2017 inauguration of a new American President.
“And how that dumbing-down has especially gathered steam since, with near a majority of American people who seem to have fallen off a flat world as Trump’s shocking lack of common decency fueled like-minded, self-absorbed insouciant constituents to follow suit.
“He – the president of these United States – made it OK to degrade and humiliate, bully and disrespect all that was once hallowed, from honoring our American veterans to the American Constitution!
“I say near a majority, because if bold-faced lies in the guise of alternate truths continue to win the day (accepted by the ignorance of say 49% of this nation), fanned by manipulative personalities from ex-president Trump to all manner of media and so-called social influencers armed with conspiracy theories and outrageous lies, it won’t be long before those of us who exhibit critical-thinking, will be ferreted out as a threat to those hell-bent on empowering themselves with destructive Machiavellian principals.
“We need only look at January 6, 2021, to see just how the previous four years have turned this nation into a fragile Democracy rife with discordant mindsets bereft of anything associated with harmony and accord. These minds would tip us all towards the unthinkable, with brother against brother not seen since the mid-19th Century. Never say never – civil war is a distinct possibility if the vilifying rhetoric continues to amplify!”
From Loretta Fairley of Hattiesburg, Miss.: “A couple of co-workers and I are always talking about how much dumber things (and people) are these days. And the sad thing is, we work at an institution of ‘higher learning.’ And it isn't just the student body we're referring to when we speak of the intellectually challenged!
“It's everywhere – management, faculty, staff, students, parents, etc. Which, of course, is only a smaller version of the world at large. It's in the White House, in Congress (and how!), in the Governor's mansions in all 50 states, municipal offices, and, of course, homes. Because that's where it all starts – at home. And the things we learn in childhood (or don't learn, as the case often is), shape us, shape society. And you see the state society is in.
“Utopia it ain't.
“Anyway, thank you for pointing out what so many people apparently don't or can't (or won't) see. At least some people see it and aren't afraid to say it!”
From Nermin Armando: “I read your article and it prompted me to write you and this is actually the first time ever for me to comment about something published in newspaper.
“I have lived in the USA for 25 years and this is actually the fourth country I lived in. Originally, I am from the Balkans and left there in 1991 just shortly before war broke.
“And I saw the elections in former Yugoslavia, Germany, Dominican Republic and now in the USA. And I would say that there is always the show and entertainment dimension that comes along by all parties during elections, but it looks like show and lack of essence is dominant in the USA. (The talk of the day was the size of somebody's hands for example)
“I am not an expert in human behavior or social studies but one can say that the economic well-being and ease of making a living in the USA and other developed countries perhaps has something to do with it. And especially in the USA being isolated from world wars.
“For example, the author of one of last week’s letters complaining about LA and California said she is moving east. Easy to do, move away, start the life somewhere else. Same language, same country, same money and laws. I and many others like me had to learn the language and to exist in a different society and be foreigners and I will die as one.
“So, dumbing-down may stem from simple facts of no real challenge and easy living. The article mentioned those in Dallas waiting for JFK Jr. and one would wonder in which economy they live in. Where are they getting money from? I mean nothing is free.
“One would ask, is the only problem they have actually a perception of the problem since all other elements of their lives are just in a perfect order? Remember that guy in Pelosi's chair claiming he is a retired firefighter so living on pension with all the benefits is easy living? And people who know him say, ‘Ah nice guy, we see him at gun shows.’
“So that is the life of a ‘great revolutionary’ ready to die by violent death in his words, and comes to the world stage to show his boots on the desk of an official who he says insulted him. That is the dumbest thing ever.
“Another example is someone I know claiming Soros was a Nazi and I said but he was 11 year-old-child when the war started, A simple fact, like gravity. He did not say anything but that the government has no chance because people are armed and how in Australia they vaccinate people at their homes. Ted Cruz was twitting about it, so what is happening in Australia must be really crucial for his constituents. I mean Australia is only the next block over.
“The point I am trying to make is that your article is talking about dumbing-down while a number of those dumbed-down people are also armed and dangerous and cannot comprehend and accept simple and obvious facts.
“That is, I believe, the most serious and dangerous consequence of dumbing-down.”
From Mark Heckler of Cambridge Md.: “While pseudo-listening to a segment on Sunday morning network TV about why the Italians need seven sizes of the same kind of pasta, I grabbed my laptop and with infinite grace found your response to Eugene Robinson's piece about the dumbing of America. He is an astute observer of our current, very sad national situation.
“We are a broken, hateful and yes, increasingly stupid collection of individuals just barely clinging to that which defines us as Americans in the first place: our borders, our language and our culture. Thomas Jefferson, who believed fervently that an educated citizenry was the only hope for the survival of our democracy, would be booking passage on a ship back to France.
“Our son-in-law is a deeply religious, otherwise intelligent 39-year-old who harbors a dream to own his own food truck by early 2022. Unfortunately, he also listens to the misinformation Joe Rogan delivers on a popular, right-leaning podcast. Thus, he as well as our daughter, also 39, remain unvaccinated.
“My wife and I are heart-sick and frightened. The objective fact that he fails to grasp is that if, against all odds, he is able to realize his dream in the very near future, COVID-19 could literally put both he and his dream in their graves.
“Very sadly for me, while I can talk to him openly and honestly about almost anything else of great import to their lives together, I cannot talk to him about the most important subject of all: getting vaccinated.
As the stand-up comic Ron White once noted, "You can't fix stupid."
From Pete Mobley: “I thoroughly enjoyed your editorial about the dumbing down of Americans and I just read your second article as well. It seems to me that the ‘dumbing down’ has been happening for several decades but it appears to be reaching a crescendo. Perhaps crescendo isn’t an accurate description because it implies a peak and I fear the worst may be yet to come.
“I do have a few ideas about the causes. I think television may be the worst offender with 24-hour news networks that do little actual unbiased reporting and endless, opinion- rich commentary. I believe audiences have a difficult time discerning actual news from all the round table discussions of like-minded individuals. That’s all by design, I’m sure.
“Just consider some of the other tv programs on the air waves. The History Channel has shows about ancient aliens, swamp people, pawn shops, duck people and some show about digging holes in Canada. I remember when History channel aired documentaries about WW2. Sure, the programs were dry but they were educational.
“There’s TLC, that ironically stands for The Learning Channel. They have shows about people who are buried under trash in their homes and people who eat toilet paper. There are also countless shows about morbidly obese people. There’s actually a program that follows two obese sisters who happen to live about 10 miles away from me. It’s all low bar, in-the-gutter stuff.
“Then there is social media to consider. I think it could be responsible for the most rapid decline of intelligence. It’s a platform for lies and idiocy to spread at the speed of light. I don’t think we fully understand just how pernicious this is going to be. It’s obviously having a drastic effect on our democracy.
“Let’s consider religion for a moment. People go to church and they’re told to do as I say because ‘I’m the giver of His laws. If you question me, you question God.’ Boy, that sure doesn’t help individual thought much, does it?
“I’m sure there’s always going to be something that doesn’t contribute positively to the learning and development of society and it could be suggested that the individual should be able to think for themselves but sadly, critical thought is in short supply.
“I’m sure I could sit here and think of several more things at play but after a while it just becomes depressing. I do however, thank you for having the courage to write about the problem.”
From Michael Murphy: “I live in China. I was born and raised in Texas and am a caucasian. I am also a teacher and own an English training center here in Henan Province, China. I've lived in China for 10 years.
“Let me give a perspective from where I am. I've been here 15 years. I was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican until Trump showed up. I was quite aware of the miserable failures of George W. Bush and his administration regarding the nonsensical wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latter did make some sense in the attempt to find Osama bin Laden. But, as we all know, his administration failed in doing that. Obama did it later.
“I'm very in touch with people throughout Asia. I am and have been the No. 1 blogger on China Daily newspaper's site for several years. I've received a considerable amount of more views than any other blogger there. For obvious reasons, I don't blog about politics. My point is, I know a lot of people in Asia and of course, there are a lot who know me. I'm in touch with what goes on in Asia.
“People in this part of the world are bewildered at America. They are not quick (at all) to criticize it because they have held it in such high esteem for decades. When they see the unbelievable idiotic actions of Americans, it is like, they don't believe it is real. Trump gave the world 'fake news' rhetoric for the purpose of scapegoating anything that doesn't suit him in the present moment. I think anyone with an IQ over 90 knows that.
“So, today, when Asians (and especially Chinese) hear about the antics of Trump, QAnon, the GOP, conspiracy theorists and the like, they simply write it off as 'fake news.' Of course, they have the foundation of censorship here and actually don't believe their own news the majority of the time.
“When you mix all of the conspiracies such as election fraud, Deep State theory, Hollywood/Democrats/consuming babies theory, America's insane response to COVID-19, JFK Jr./Dallas appearance, all of the pillow guy's idiocy and the dozen other theories of lunacy, and present it to the Chinese, they certainly find it entertaining. However, the sentiment is, they don't believe that Americans are that stupid. As I said, they have held us in high regard for decades.
“When COVID-19 broke out just 316 miles from where I'm sitting right now (Wuhan), China was convinced that they would have the highest numbers of infections and deaths. The last pandemic here infected 8,098 people and resulted in 774 deaths. When China saw its number of infected people rise above 10,000, the lockdowns became so serious that roads were barricaded with dirt and rock around most cities and even to tiny villages. I tried to visit a village of 2,000 residents about 80 km to the north of here and no one was allowed into or out of the village. Suffice it to say, the Chinese have taken this thing seriously from the onset.
“China has had more than 800 such pandemics in its recorded history. People here (including me) do trust their numbers of infections and deaths. One of the main reasons that the numbers are so well trusted is the measures that are taken to stop the virus here and the daily communication of the government to the people. Every citizen in my city has an APP on their phones that reports to us the number of total infections in our city, the overnight positives of the testing, the asymptomatic cases, the number of people hospitalized presently with the virus, and, most importantly, the location of the homes of those who are infected.
“The numbers that exist on websites like worldometer.com and Johns Hopkins of people tested in China are clearly inaccurate when it comes to testing in China. I've personally been tested 12 times. I will go for another test tomorrow.
“These websites show about 160 million tests for the virus in China. My guess is that it is at least 15 times that amount. Testing, masks, contact tracing, lockdowns (remember that a lockdown here has at least the same economic impact that it does in the USA. Authorities certainly don't like these kinds of hits to the economy, but they do keep people well and alive.)
“My point is, if America could have humbled itself and followed the Chinese in their preparedness and strategy in dealing with the virus, then three-quarters of a million Americans would not be dead right now. I personally know six American friends/family who have died from it. Of course, Trump called it a fake virus and did everything he could to facilitate the spread of the virus.
“What has happened in America has strengthened China's standing in the world substantially.
“I ramble on and on, but I totally agree with your assessment. Many Americans are beyond dumb. They are absolute morons (sad to say).”
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Enough! I appreciate all the responses and hearing about other people’s viewpoints, but I pledge to write about something local or about some memorable moment from our past in next week’s column. Hopefully it will be so dull that Yahoo News wouldn’t think about posting it on its website.
Dan Tackett is a retired managing editor of The Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Lincoln Courier: Readers say American intelligence has changed over the years