Novelization or fact?: Only the good die young, Billy Joel once claimed.
That claim was false, as is this additional claim:
Only the smartest ones are ever completely stupid.
We formulated that aphorism after perusing the latest from Slate. In particular, we formulated that notion after perusing the piece which ran beneath these headlines:
“The Karens Are Giving Us a Hard Time Now”As we've recently noted, "Karens" is a new term of group denigration. It follows the earlier phrase "dumb blondes," replacing the condescension of the earlier term with a more modern type of moral condemnation.
A waiter at a reopened restaurant explains how dining works in a pandemic.
Everyone's whacking the Karens! It's a term which lets the most human among us enjoy a fully human impulse—the impulse to engage in the invention of the other.
Only the (allegedly) smart ones are ever totally stupid? We promulgated our aphorism after reading this account of the authorship of the Slate piece:
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Magi, who works as a waiter at an American Chinese restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida. The conversation has been transcribed, condensed, and edited for clarity by [NAME WITHHELD].NAME WITHHELD—he'd be socially defined as a guy—is now three years out of Yale (class of 2017). As noted, only the (supposedly) brightest and best are ever really this dumb.
WITHHELD is almost surely a good decent person, but he's also a child of a certain age. It didn't seem to enter his head—or the heads of his editors, if any exist—that such terms of demographic denigration spread quickly through a society, and that they're hard to tamp down, restrict, walk back or control.
(For the record, the enjoyable denigration of women played major roles in the way George W. Bush, then Donald J. Trump, ended up in the White House. We refer to the denigration of women on the part of the upper-end mainstream press corps.)
With regard to the current term of group denigration, your limbic brain will tell you to say that it's only meant as a criticism of a certain type of woman. Go ahead—keep saying that! People like us always do!
At any rate, the sheer stupidity of our war-inclined species may be its most obvious trait. In fairness, this stupidity represents the best we can be expected to do, according to the group of major anthropologists with whom we routinely consult.
These experts say it's a function of the way our imperfect brains are wired. Our brains are wired to identify others, they say. Things tend to proceed from there.
For ourselves, the best thing we've done since the lockdown arrived was to rewatch the 1982 film, Sophie's Choice. This led us back to Emily Dickinson's Ample Make This Bed, but also to the plea for mercy, empathy, pity with which William Styron ended his 1979 novel:
This week, we plan to talk about trauma and traumatization. Essays which seem to describe this state of affairs have been appearing widely of late, raising significant questions.
By way of background, people are often treated quite badly. A few days ago, to cite one example, we clicked a link and were taken to an essay in the Hartford Courant.
The essay appeared in 2015. In the essay, a young person—she was then 22—said this about her own life. Headline included:
DCF Needs To Stop Blaming The ChildrenStyron ended Sophie's Choice with a memorial to all "the beaten and butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the earth." He didn't restrict himself to Holocaust victims and "survivors"—to people like the Sophie of his title. He listed many others besides.
By the time I was 16, I had already experienced a lifetime of trauma. My family mistreated me. The state took me away from them and dumped me into a shelter. The foster family I was placed with rejected me. My social worker decided to place me at a residential treatment center in New Britain. She promised me that being there would help to heal my anxiety and depression, and that I would eventually return to living with a family.
But when I entered the doors of the facility, I knew this wasn't a place where I would heal. The girls' unit had a small, dimly lit common area and a long hallway of residents' rooms. It looked and felt more like a prison than a restorative environment. The only times we left the unit were for school or an occasional scheduled trip to the mall. For the most part, we were stuck in the dark common area, leaving us feeling claustrophobic and in desperate need of fresh air.
The focus of the place was compliance, not treatment. The staff was overwhelmingly undertrained and authoritarian. Too frequently, they let their own emotional reactions guide their response to the girls in their charge. When a girl talked back or slammed her bedroom door, staff might throw her to the ground, restrain her and drag her to the solitary confinement cell. There was little oversight and fewer consequences.
Though the facility was supposed to heal my brokenness, I left it far more shattered than I went in...
The person who published that account of her youth was in the news last week. Today, she's 27 years old—and the site at which we found that link referred to her a "a monster."
So these things tend to go.
On balance, we'd be inclined to say that the young woman who wrote that essay made a shaky decision in recent weeks. That said, when we keep childhood trauma in mind, and when we muse on the inevitable fruits of our nation's brutal racial history, we're inclined to reserve our criticism for the Washington Post, which commissioned and published a truly astonishing "news report" last week.
Almost surely, the Post was seeking to cover its ascot, protecting itself against attack in these revolutionary times. To accomplish that task, the newspaper was apparently willing to throw a private person under a very large bus.
The young woman to whom we've referred was 22 when she wrote that essay for the Courant. We can't vouch for the accuracy of anything she wrote that day, but the Courant apparently judged that her essay raised important questions about one of Connecticut's major social institutions.
Five years later, that young woman hit the news again, this time in the Post. We'd be inclined to say that her aim may not have been fully true this time around.
That said, you can't make the types of decisions our benighted ancestors made without creating shock waves—shock waves which will reverberate down through the annals of time. In part, we think of what Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address.
All this week, we'll be looking at recent essays which suggest types of traumatization, or something resembling that. Your limbic brain may ask you to be offended by this framework. According to experts, limbic brains are inclined to do things like that.
This will be part of a longer discussion concerning what Jelani Cobb said about the current state of American policing. It will be part of a longer discussion concerning the ways the mainstream press corps has tended to report this ongoing conduct.
According to the Washington Post's invaluable Fatal Force site, police officers have shot and killed roughly a thousand people in each of the past five years (2015-2019). How should we understand that fact? We'll be pondering that question over the next several weeks.
This week, we'll start with some personal essays. They've appeared fairly widely in the past few weeks and they do, and then again sometimes don't, make absolute perfect sense.
What lies behind these personal essays? Among other things, mountains of American history lie behind these essays. Keeping that horrible fact in mind, the question we're asking is this:
At revolutionary times such as these, should we live on novels alone, or do we need accurate facts?
Tomorrow: The 7-year-old "was terrified," his mother said
More fun with the Karens: As we type, Slate is offering, within an advertisement, a link to a hard-hitting report at another site. Here's how the report is headlined:
Hairstyles That Women Should Ditch: Retire The "Karen"Warning! This is the way we nitwits behave when we've gone to the finest schools!