America’s Epidemic of Foolishness

America’s Epidemic of Foolishness

Watching the news these days calls to mind the old Jewish adage, “Send a fool to close the shutters and he’ll close them all over town.” It’s hard to tell whether there are more foolish people today than there used to be, or whether the ones we’ve always had have gained positions of greater influence and power. One thing is certain though: foolishness has reached epidemic proportions. Here are some examples:

Some policemen are racist, and reasonable people agree that identifying and getting rid of them would solve the problem. However, the foolish among us argue that a better solution is defunding or abolishing them. (Talk about the baby and the bathwater.)

Young people have always felt bad when they didn’t get a trophy and sensitive adults have always comforted them. But that was not enough for the foolish—they argued for abolishing trophies.

Some students get higher grades than others. That is simply a fact of life. Parents and teachers have responded by helping them study harder or supplementing their learning with other materials. Foolish people preferred a different solution—stop rewarding achievement.  

Like the rest of us, heroes of bygone eras had flaws, some of them widely known, others hidden for years. In either case, most of us thought, “No one is perfect but the heroes did exceptionally good things, so honoring them makes sense. After all, we’re doing so despite the flaws, not because of them.” But along came foolish people demanding that statues be toppled and names be removed from history books. 

Time and again, in school, Asian students have had the highest academic averages. Non-Asians understandably felt a little embarrassed. But thoughtful ones wondered why Asians did so well. They undertook studies and found that Asian families placed greater value on young people developing their talents and thereby honoring their parents and grandparents. This focus made them work harder than others. The logical reaction for non-Asian families was to imitate Asian families. But the foolish had a different response—sharply limit Asians’ admission to college.

Some fathers refuse to support their families, a shameful thing to do, and one with long-term negative effects on the children. In the past, such fathers were taken to court and given the choice between meeting their obligations or spending time in jail. In contrast, foolish citizens urged pitying delinquent fathers and making taxpayers support their families.

In the past, black citizens were discriminated against, a violation of their civil rights. In time, laws were more diligently and fairly enforced. But old resentments did not go away for everyone. Foolish people sought retribution with a different violation of civil rights—discrimination against whites.

Some criminals have had unfortunate lives; others have not but have acted aggrieved anyway. The traditional approach was to give offenders appropriate sentences and require them to serve them. That was not always effective but it at least kept them from committing more crimes. In recent years, however, foolish people have argued for reduced bail, dismissal of charges (even in the case of serious offenses), and the release of hardened criminals and repeat offenders with little or no consideration for the safety of the community.

Some stores are too expensive for the average person. In past generations, honest people responded by shopping at stores whose prices were within their means; stole what they wanted. When caught, the latter were arrested and charged with a crime. Today, foolish elected officials allow thieves to steal what they want—in some cases, up to $899 per visit to the store without penalty. (Given the quality of thought that produced the new standard, it is likely its authors believed the change will reduce crime.)

Both philosophy and religion urge charity toward those in need both in our own country and in poorer countries. The problem in those countries is often not just a lack of natural resources but also incompetent or corrupt governments. In recent years, millions of individuals have ignored the law and entered the U.S. and illegally. Reasonable elected officials, recognizing that the unregulated flow of illegals is neither rational nor moral, have sought ways to overcome poverty without having the poor migrate. But foolish people, which badly flawed logic,  have condemned the very existence of borders as an offense against human rights and God!

Long before the advent of science, humans who possessed moderate vision and a modicum of common sense understood that there are two genders, male and female. Again and again science has confirmed and deepened that knowledge. Recently, however, foolish people have decided that billions of our ancestors were wrong and announced that there are really innumerable genders;moreover, that the gender formerly known as male can have babies!

Believe it or not, things could get worse. Tomorrow or next week the fools among us may conclude that since some doctors are quacks, the medical profession should be abolished. Or that since many marriages fail, marriage should be outlawed. Or that since many government officials are corrupt, governments should be shut down.

If there is a solution to this craziness, it surely involves parents and teachers realizing and proclaiming what our wisest ancestors knew—that emotion, though fine, is no substitute for careful thinking. Or as my father used to say, “God meant the human head to be more than a hat-rack.”

Copyright © 2023 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero