by Rodolfo F. Acuña
My mother use to say, “Cuando eres pendejo, eres pendejo;” and there was not much you could do about it – you were just born that way. Although I always enjoy my mother’s sayings, I do not believe that stupidity is genetic. With Americans I would blame their educational system, for as my mother used to say, there is a difference between being schooled and being educated.
What can you expect of an educational system where, according to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 46 percent, of Americans believe in creationism? It follows that creationists are more likely to be Republican than Democrat or Independent. I am not saying that believing in god or religion is stupid, but a lack of critical thinking qualifies as stupid.
Our educational system has been gutted, and our students taught to pass tests rather than to think critically. Because of the incessant assault on schools by corporate and property interests, school programs have been devastated – and art and physical education classes eliminated.
The result is an increased warehousing of students who are cooped up without much physical activity. Class sizes have shot up, and many educators blame parents and the students, who must, according to their stupid logic, be the problem. As a consequence, to control hyperactive kids more students are drugged with Ritalin – ADHD. Just keep them quiet and controlled.
Old myths such as Horatio Alger are repackaged to justify a mass transfer of the cost of education from corporations and the upper echelons of society to middle and working class students and their families.
The stupidity is that we accept stupidity. Class mobility in this country is based on education – and like it or not Horatio Alger like Santa Claus is a myth.
There is no shortage of examples of stupidity. Take costly propaganda against Obamacare,
Health care in the United States is more expensive than in any other industrialized nation. We rationalize that Americans are getting the world’s best health care. Actually, the United States spent $7,960 per capita on health care in 2009, almost three times the amount spent in Japan. We pay more for physician visits, hospital treatments and prescription drugs. And, still Americans are obese.
The problem is clear. It is not Obamacare, it has not even gone into effect. The problem is insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical companies, and all the middlemen that all take their cut. And this does not include the members of Congress who keep the system oiled.
We are stupid because we take it. Like my mother used to say, we should just lower our brows so everyone can see the big “P” (Pendejo) on our foreheads.
Every time I see the basset hound (Sen. Mitch McConnell), the drunk (Speaker John Boehner), and the mini-me (Cong. Eric Cantor) meet the press to talk about austerity, the “P” on their foreheads light up. How anyone can accept the logic that if we eliminate school teachers and allow our roads to go to pot, that this will bring about prosperity?
It does not dawn on Americans that running of two major wars on the credit card has contributed to the economic collapse. In 2011, fifty of the largest lobbying spenders spent $176.1 million from July through September. Could this be one of the reasons why deregulation led to the present recession? Could this be the reason that not a single banker or Wall Street CEO has gone to jail?
Americans are stupid because they ignore this. During the Second Industrial Revolution when we built the transcontinental railroads, railroad lobbyists would go on the floor of Congress and pass out railroad stock. Mark Twain dubbed the period The Gilded Age in 1873.
Today the scandal and corruption of the Gilded Age is dwarfed, so instead of putting a Big P on our foreheads we should substitute a “C” for cuckold or its counterpart in Spanish – cabrón. We know that our elected officials, our government and our Supreme Court are bought off, and we do nothing about it.
The truth be told, we don’t want to accept that they are cheating us because if we did, we would have to do something about it. You want to lose a friend, just tell them that their partner is fooling around on them.
Part of the debate around immigration centers on whom we should give preferences to. The P’s say that we should be attracting those with technical skills. To them it is logical to drain the brain power of poorer countries. No matter that the poor nations spent millions of dollars training these technicians. Of course, it does not dawn on them that the answer is to improve our own schools.
Why do people hate us? No one wants to know that they have bad breath. Could it be that many people consider us terrorists? In El Salvador, the United States funded and trained the death squads. In Guatemala the CIA ran a covert action called Operation Success that allowed military dictators to rule the country from the 1960s to the 90s. The United States provided the weapons and trained their officers who killed over 250,000 Guatemalan peasants.
Some people find it hypocritical for us to label others terrorists.
I don’t take pleasure in putting a “P” or a “C” on people’s foreheads. When you think about it, it is not funny, it is tragic.
But you know that was part of the reason for the assault on the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program. It had to do with history: Attorney General Tom Horne said the district was using my book, and that I lied because I said that the United States invaded Mexico. Horne said that Mexican Americans were using history as a springboard to invading the U.S. The level of his discourse earned him more than a Big P on his forehead.
But where the Arizona jingoists went berserk was that the Tucson curriculum was designed to teach students to think critically. This, according to them, was subversive, un-American and led to racism. It was better to educate students not to question, to wear Big Ps on their foreheads and graduate them to wearing Big Cs. It is better for them to ignore that they are being cheated on and that they are being robbed.
Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Dr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.