Did you feel the Earth tip on its axis toward "Stupid" last week? No one at our house felt anything specific, that's why I ask, because there had to be some sort of planetary snag going on — how else to explain a week so jam-packed with stunningly ill-advised, reckless or just plain dumb goings-on? Which leads to a favorite question — the one on a birthday-gift T-shirt from a friend: "What the hell is going on around here?" Let's take a look.
We start up the road in Randolph County, where the Board of Education voted last week to ban Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man from its 11th grade reading list. Ellison's novel is recognized by critics worldwide as one of the great works of American fiction, but who believes those people? Not the Randolph County school board, which banned the book after a complaint from one parent, who said the book was "filthy" and "too much for teenagers" — 'cause we all know that no 11th grader has ever read about anything related to sex before. The real fault — the true stupidity — came from school board members. Chairman Tommy McDonald said he thought Invisible Man, which has been standard fare in U.S. high schools for at least three decades, was a "hard read." Another board member, and former Asheboro police chief, Gary Mason, said he "didn't find any literary value" in the classic novel. Being from Gaffney, S.C., I know too well how a small community's "leaders" can often seem to have washed up from the shallow end of the town's gene pool. But really, Asheboro? Book banning? Luckily, Randolph County parents have complained loudly about the ban, and the school board's senseless decision was even featured on Russian television as an example of America's poor educational system. As a result, the school board will hold a special session Wednesday, Sept. 25, to "reconsider" the ban. Way to go, Randolph County citizens, who demonstrated the best way to deal with the kind of idiocy practiced by the school board: shame them publicly for being cowards and ignoramuses.
The same tactic should be used for the online racists who've been casting aspersions on the late Jonathan Ferrell, the unarmed black man who was shot to death by police officer Randall Kerrick early Saturday, Sept. 14. Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter, the first time in decades an officer had been charged with killing someone in the line of duty. To read some commenters' rantings, however, you'd think Ferrell was a notorious gangsta on a mission. Some choice comments: "Kerrick's charges will be dropped soon. Now they're saying Ferrell had been drinking and smoking pot" (so now smoking pot is punishable by immediate execution). "Who wouldn't be [as] scared [as Kerrick] in the same situation, in the dark with a large black guy coming toward them?" "You can't tell me Ferrell wasn't up to no good." "If he ran toward the cops, he got what he had coming." Excuse me, but what is it about the phrase "was obviously unarmed," spoken by Police Chief Rodney Monroe — or "had no lawful right to discharge his weapon" (again, Chief Monroe), or "three cops to one unarmed man" — don't these people understand? The problem, of course, is that those are logical statements about the incident, and logic has no place inside the heads of the half-witted, dedicated racists who post their repugnant "opinions" online.
The same goes for the vile jerks who popped a stitch in their brains when Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American, won the Miss America pageant. "How the fuck does a foreigner win Miss America? She's an Arab!" "9/11 was four days ago and she gets Miss America?" "So Miss America is a terrorist," and "Miss America or Miss al-Qaeda?" were some of the prime tweets about the pageant. That's right, these numbnuts can't even distinguish between a person of Indian descent and an Arab — and of course, all Arabs are terrorists, or hadn't you heard? Seriously, these jokers' abysmal ignorance and nasty-tempered imbecility are not a joking matter — they're a national problem. In fact, I'd say that Russian news report on our educational system was probably on to something.
All in all, it was the kind of week when even the most patient and understanding person, never mind people like me, starts to doubt the nation's, and the city's, sanity. And I haven't even mentioned the GOP nihilists in golf pants (thanks, Mr. Keillor), who are trying to sabotage the workings of the U.S. government through their bogus moves to defund Obamacare. Three years ago or so, Creative Loafing ran a weekly blog feature written by yours truly called the "Stupid Thing of the Week." Last Friday, I thought about that old feature and thanked the stars that I didn't have to pick just one.
Call me old fashioned, but I enjoy seeing the look of surprise and contempt on…
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