“Stupid is as stupid does?”
By Jorge D. H. Prósperi
Forrest Gump is a masterful iconic generational commentary novel by Winston Groom, a film directed by Robert Zemeckis, screenwriter Eric Roth with an evocative soundtrack by composer Alan Silvestri.
It has all the socio-cultural-political-religious tenets of a movie meant to rock our minds, hearts and spirits . . . lingering for the rest of our stay on earth.
While I’m not a fan of the Academy Awards – that is – limiting artistry to one singular award, in 1994 Forrest took home six Oscars. Tom Hanks won for Best Actor. He had just won the award the previous year for “Philadelphia” – yet another poignant statement about us. Lets be clear – Forrest Gump is all about us – the good and not so good lingering ugliness.
Set in Alabama, Forrest begins by simply sharing his stories via a delectable musical southern drawl. This is when some of my microagressions, predispositions and social constructs (that I diligently try to confront and dismantle) began to kick in.
But as with Don Quijote, I discovered that Forrest was just setting stereotypical deadfall pits – allowing us to laugh at what seems to be innocent denseness. You know, just like all those people in Alabama and neighboring racist states are thought to be – right?
Don’t deny that some of you thought the same thing – don’t you dare deny it! Forrest set the trap by kindly offering each of us to pick from that box of mixed chocolates – never knowing what to expect.
So we settled in on that bus bench listening to Forrest share personal chapters of his life and through his stories, exposing America’s underbelly. Like Quijote, his story was not simple and each chapter not simplistic.
We listen, gently smiling, at times belly laughing, but so often end up in tears. We find ourselves weeping the second and third time we watch the movie – wanting to reconnect again and again, and again – holding on to that raw authentic goodness we so much yearn for and miss in 2021.
You see, Forrest as with Quijote, unmasks us – simply placing a mirror in front of our faces allowing us to take a good hard look at who we have been, are and want to be.
There are many notable lines uttered by Forrest, among the most famous being, “My mama always said that stupid is as stupid does.”
I bet that the majority watching the film nodded in agreement. “Yep – you bet Forrest – absolutely true!” A person should be judged not by her/his tweets alone, but by her/his actions – not by appearance, status, class, affluence, or title . . . but by her/his actions.
Forrest’s mama did him right by imprinting those words that he lived by. Oh how he honored his mama’s love via his actions with Bubba, Bubba’s family, Lieutenant Dan, those vets he carried out of harms way among the raining napalm . . . and of course . . . Jenny. Oh how he loved her – with such authenticity – honest conviction – “Jenny was my best friend.”
So what does all of this have to do with Republican Trumpism? I gather that the answer is simply “Stupid is as Stupid does?”, not as a declarative sentence but as an interrogative.
There is one critical perplexing question that has been posed since 2016 regarding the supporters of Republican Trumpism. The question is often thought, but seldom uttered, trying to remain somewhat civil and respectful of our mutual humanness. Trying to keep in check those viral social constructs.
It’s a question that many human beings around the world have asked using simple logic, common sense, reason and rationality.
“Are the followers of Republican Trumpism just that stupid?“
Is Republican Trumpism made up of dullards, disoriented confused oafs lacking basic emotional intelligence and moral courage to identify, examine, expose and pursue unequivocal, unadulterated, raw reality and truth?
So let’s take a closer look at the word “Stupid“. The definition is really quite simple. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2021) does an excellent job of clarifying the concept with some 100+ synonyms: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stupid
Lest we forget that the leader – the supreme being of Republican Trumpism calls himself the antithesis of stupid but rather, “A very stable genius . . . Like I’m really smart.”
Wow! A self anointed entity of brilliance declaring to the world that he alone could and would fix America’s highly complex historical and 21st century dysfunctions.
None of this is made up or fake news folks . . . he actually said this on national networks for posterity. Run the tape please. Trumpers may want to look away – as they often do.
For the past five years, Republican Trumpism remains connected to an ex-president, Washington Senators, Congressmen, Governors, Cable and Radio Networks and media pundits who during their basic schooling as youngsters must have missed classes on ethics, citizenship and Democracy. Or were they all home schooled to avoid being influenced by critical thinking?
So how do we answer the critical question as to why Republican Trumpism leans on stupidity? Let’s begin by simply acknowledging some basic tenets that a worthy answer should contain: Truth, Validity, Credibility and Trust. Let’s begin at the beginning.
Was it stupid to believe, support and vote for a proven charlatan, grifter, shyster, racist, sexist, womanizer, homophobic, xenophobic, unscrupulous, fraudulent, deceptive, authoritarian pathological liar?
The question is enough to avoid being associated with any semblance of stupidity. Some would instantly agree “Of course it was stupid – irrational, immoral and insane – still is!” So what happened?
Republican Trumpism voters in 2016 were thought to be just innocent victims of a well marketed scam. Sorry, not good enough, try harder –
“Fool me once shame on you – fool me twice . . .
If stupidity was the case in 2016, stupidity was not the case in 2020. To be fooled twice, and to continue spewing the same insidious rhetoric is where intent gains relevance, momentum and affirmation.
Republican Trumpism will be dissected and chronicled by historians, sociologists, political scientists, psychiatrists and psychologists who will put the manias, phobias, -isms and criminalities under a KQED microscope decoding its divisiveness, corruption, manipulations, scams, and disrespect for the rule of law.
MAGA supporters, at the highest levels, will deal with personal moral MRIs that show their complicity, collusion, enabling and lack of courage – avoiding by choice to do the right thing when it counted most.
Let’s change the dynamic of dealing with the question of stupidity and not forget why so many voted for Republican Trumpism not once, but twice.
It was not due to stupidity. They fervently believe in an America that they think and feel is still available to dominate by prejudices, biases, phobias and -isms. Such supporters are not stupid but dishonest as to reasons why. Reluctant to own the WHY they voted for their next white hope.
So, not once, but twice Trumpers plugged their ears, covered their eyes, held their noses, screaming LA, LA, LA, LA, LA, LA – avoiding veracity and decency – voting for self-interest, rationalizing self imposed dysfunctions and grievances, embracing regional native egocentrism, proclaiming innate self-validation, bitterly complaining of no longer being a majority, abetting regional tribalism, confirming biases via contrived antiquated talking points echoing in silos constructed long, long ago.
A grave mistake is to think of trumpers as a collective noun – white trash yahoos living in rural boondocks. They come from all segments of society with law, medical, engineering degrees. They are entrepreneurs, board members and CEOs. Easily found on Wall Street. So what do such affinity groups have in common?
Republican Trumpism holds on to dear life to the fundamental absolute belief that hoarding power and maintaining its control at all cost is justified – an entitlement – a personal privilege. Right is right and the chosen ones are always right – and happen to be white.
In the wings are the religious well-intended-pseudo-egalitarian zealots professing to be the embodiment of righteousness – kneeling with absolute blind faith before their temporary tribal mascot.
But let’s be clear. Let’s not blame such an ideology on stupidity. Republican Trumpism is based on old playbooks written in the 1920s-1930s with specific chapters called “Fascism”, “Nazism”, “White Strongmen”, “Eugenics”, “Race Science”, “White Supremacy”, “Domestic Terrorism”, “Systemic Racism”, “Revisionary History”, “Insurrection”, “Secession”, “Obstructionists”, “Authoritarianism” and “Big Lies.”
Perhaps this is why the current push by Republican Trumpism to alter, deny and deflect the history of multigenerational trauma – ruptured cultures – needless suffering due to colonialism, Native American decimation, enslavement of African Americans, use and abuse of Asian immigrants and the continued stereotyping and contempt for Latina/o communities.
So now the latest ploy is to alter – revise the reasons why 13 states chose to fight for a specific way of life between 1861-1865 – calling it a War of Secession, War of Northern Aggression, War for Southern Independence. Teach the children that it was not a war to uphold inhumanity, but patriots fighting to sustain a civil southern culture, traditions, values and norms. Defend, deflect and avoid any mention of millions of ruptured lives caused by slavery and centuries of multigenerational trauma – not only for blacks but white folks as well.
Shamefully, the beat goes on. Republican Trumpism impertinence has no bounds or limits. That human beings are created equal and have inalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is currently being questioned by Republican Trumpism as being too broad – too all-inclusive.
The legacy of America’s inhumanity is highly complex and painful to research and harder to admit. Pursuit of the truth is an arduous task, but necessary in order to heal and not repeat.
Children must be told the truth rather than historical fantasies of a glorified past dealing with venerated military heroes, monuments and holidays. Children need to be taught to pursue veracity not elusions and delusions.
Doesn’t each child – each future citizen deserve the opportunity to become better than us? A chance to become the recipients of a world that welcomes, validates and recognizes each human being – without qualifiers – without what the Civil War was all about – fear, hate, racism, greed?
To teach children that critical thinking, decency, civility, social justice, equity, respect for the rule of law are only liberal whimsical notions of political correctness and not worthy of deliberation and discernment, is unconscionable, amoral and detrimental to the socio-cultural-psychological development of each child.
Historical truth telling is not about traumatizing, blaming and shaming white children and their families but allowing children to grow into responsible adults. That is, develop as intelligent critical thinkers – citizens that are aware of the tenets of victimization, injustices as part and parcel of the history of America and how to avoid such deadfall traps.
History builds empathy for the lives and struggles of others, creates awareness and understanding of ongoing racial and cultural tensions, makes available language and concepts for the purpose of peaceful and relevant discourse, provides a multitude of sources and perspectives by which to analyze and examine how the past has shaped (and continues to shape) global, national and local relationships. A crucial element of history is that it forewarns.
Citizens and voters were forewarned in the 1930s to deal with the reality of totalitarianism and mad men. They were warned that it was not stupid but CATACLYSMIC – LEADING TO HORRIFIC DEALTH TOLLS.
Milton Mayer warned not to ignore the lessons of history and to not take Democracy for granted. In his book, “They Thought They Were Free – The Germans, 1933-45, But Then It Was Too Late“, Mayer foreshadowed the evils of autocracy, authoritarianism, totalitarianism and tyranny in the making. They Thought They Were Free is an eloquent and provocative examination of the development of fascism in Germany.
In America, the tyranny marinaded from 2016 to 2020 – unfolding all its ugliness and hate in Parkland, Poway, El Paso, Charlottesville and in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. All examples of the resurgence – an emboldened legacy of white supremacy and domestic terrorism.
The attack on Washington was not stupid – it was by choice and careful design. An insurgency does not take place by happenstance. It is engineered, premeditated, financed and laser focused.
Want a brief guidebook on the history of Tyranny? Read Timothy Snyder’s succinct 126 page book “On Tyranny – Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.” A simple-complex quick read that will shake your democratic bones and soul.
What some of us are calling Republican Trumpism Stupidity is an ideology rooted in racism, fear, hate and greed. It arrogantly fosters anti-intellectualism, blames immigrants for most social problems, creates anxiety-stress-chaotic distractions via conspiracy theories, questions any/all elections that do not go their way, promotes tribalism as patriotism and obstructs justice.
Republican Trumpism does not have nor depends upon credibility and trust. Upon being caught in negligent misconduct, racism, sexism, obstruction of justice and/or complicit in criminality, the strategy is to lawyer up. If transcripts, documents, testimonies under oath and videos prove unequivocal guilt – REMAIN SILENT – HIDE!
Ever wonder what family members-wife-husband-parent(s)-son(s)-daughter(s) say to these 21st century varmints after noting that they are living with liars without scruples?
Remain silent and wait for the next breaking news – hoping that its major. Republican Trumpism is counting on enough citizens to not notice, succumb to skepticism, look the other way – remain distracted by consumerism and social media – even politicizing a pandemic.
Rather than engage in difficult inquiry and discourse on Democracy and Citizenship, turn to the National Inquirer, Star, The Globe, National Examiner and FoxNews to double down on altered realities. Leave the alt-right radio station on all day long spewing hostility, skepticism and bitterness.
Unfortunately, dealing with misinformation, lies and sensational talking points can lead to horrific consequences and inhumanity. Tabloids on supermarket stands trolling for trumpers to nod in agreement reinforcing lunacy.
Fortunately, we are not all pavlonian shiftless apprentices when it comes to our citizenship. We may be at times diverted but not stupid.
What do you remember of the 2016 Republican Convention Platform? Not much? You may remember how it was described – bizarre, a circus, clowns masquerading as public servants, controversial, chaotic, dark, haphazard, threatening, divisive, a short-lived sideshow, with a focus on blind loyalty, laden with socio-cultural fear and hate.
The convention foretold every aspect of the future as it was lived for four years. It was an announcement – a preview – a trailer of what was to come – and it did.
The reason we don’t remember much about the 2016 Republican Platform is because there was none. NONE! It was said that it was not needed. The central focus would be on the election of the entity – the savior. Like magic the messiah would do the rest. Probably within the notorious “two weeks” period!
Astute political pundits believed that to not establish a platform and run on fear, hate and division was political suicide – never heard before – at least in 21st century America. It could not happen in America! It was Crazy! STUPID!
What was not known at the time was that those living in the underbelly of America’s past were predisposed, ready, and hungry to surrender their vote in advance – to freely give up their power to one man – one party at the exclusion of all others. One man to reclaim the power and control of a way of believing and living.
There was no platform – no mention of children and the elderly – the most frail among us. No mention of protecting mother earth and her children. No mention of human rights. No mention of the 90% of us who are not part of the “Fail Safe” financial elites. No mention of the basic right to health care. No mention of expanding, providing access and protecting voting rights. No mention of taxing corporate entities to pay their fair share. No mention of overseeing oil, gas and coal magnates. No mention of harnessing and monitoring multinational technology companies from allowing social networking and platforms promoting conspiracy theories, domestic terrorism and hate speech. No mention of finally dealing with immigration – except to build walls. No mention to continue promoting, investing and building defenses against the threat of pandemics. No mention of the need to reform police guiding principles, procedures and deportment. No mention of the daily trauma suffered by veterans and their families. No mention of establishing common sense gun legislation. No mention of coming to terms with lingering wars based on nation building. No mention of the need to promote pre-school – public education – pay for junior college – and provide relief for existing student loans. No mention of establishing a national minimum wage. No mention of unearthing and coming to terms with America’s lingering history of systemic racism and white supremacy. No mention of investing in infrastructure. No mention of the need to protect, promote and defend women’s rights and gender equity. No mention of acknowledging and affirming the rights of the LGBTQ community. No mention of how to come to terms with compensating Native Americans, African Americans, LatinX Community and Asians Americans by redressing gross and systematic violations of human rights law and humanitarian law.
NONE! No mention! As if America had no socio-cultural-political issues. All that was needed was to place power and control in the hands of one man and then allow him to make America great again – just like it used to be – right? Simply bring back the “Good old days!”
The 2016 Republican Trumpism Convention was void of messages of hope, altruism, self-sacrifice, selfless concern for the quality of life of others – no challenge for each of us to reflect and enhance the vision, mission and core principles of CITIZENSHIP and DEMOCRACY.
Republican Trumpism should never be taken lightly or thought to be temporary. It is not designed to be an interim distraction – that will just go away – like we were told the virus would . . . “in two weeks.”
Wake up America! Republican Trumpism has all the trappings of a far-right dictatorial, fanatical, tyrannical ideology. The savage separation of children from their parent(s) is but one egregious reminder of the depths of inhumanity diligently engineered.
Republican Trumpism is evil and must be addressed on a daily basis with conscious astuteness, activism and courage – not only nationally but locally – be it within families, schools, workplaces and most of all – the voting booth.
VOTE! Regardless of voting obstructions, suppression, Gerrymandering, redistricting, anti-voting legislation and fear/intimidation tactics used to deny and/or keep voters away – VOTE!
If we have to crawl through shattered glass and fire – VOTE!
VOTE because the quality of our lives and the quality of the lives of our children and grandchildren depend on our ballot. Each vote matters – be it for school board member, local mayor, police chief, governor, attorney general or president. VOTE!
Republican Trumpism is not new. It is a leftover from our paradoxical beginnings – equal but racially unequal – equal but separate – kept divided – sustained by choices and designs to hold on to the illusion of superiority – supremacy.
To quote Timothy Snyder, “It is assumed that after the teenagers make a mess, the adults will come and clean it up. But we are the adults. We own this mess.”
So what is the answer – solution? Simply put, “Wisdom is as Wisdom does.”