One of the more amusing things about the internet age is how all of us have become instant experts on really complicated issues virtually overnight. Most of us don’t know shit about anything but that doesn’t stop any of us from taking to the internet to weigh in on the finer points of, say, Senate parliamentary rules, or the intricacies of healthcare policy, or “what the Founders wanted.” Never mind that people write PhD dissertations on some of this stuff, but now Joe and Jane America are suddenly experts and have no qualms telling everyone else how wrong (or right) they are.
And yes, myself included.
That’s all well and good but if you’ve ever been involved in any local issues you realize that most Americans, regardless of economic status or educational background, are idiots. This is something I have seen first-hand at several neighborhood meetings over the past few years, as our neighborhood battles zoning issues and development pressure.
Folks, we are clueless about the basics of American civics. This shit should be common sense and yet, people just want to get their way and really don’t seem to care about things like, well, laws.
What’s even more ironic is that 9 times out of 10 it’s me, the progressive-liberal-ex-hippie-Commie-Socialisticky-anti-American-terrorist-appeaser who has to explain to the conservative-Republican-Tea-Party-red-blooded-true-Merkin-Patriot How Things Work. For example:
• Yesterday I had to explain to a physician that no, buying an ad in a newspaper is not a free speech issue and yes, a newspaper publisher has the right to refuse an advertisement without it being a violation of your Constitutional rights. No one has a constitutional right to buy a newspaper ad.
• A year ago I sat in a community meeting and was dumbfounded to hear a far-right patriotic Tea Party neighbor ask our councilman — I shit you not — why the city can’t prevent the local university from buying up houses in our neighborhood.
People, this neighbor has so many flags, bald eagles and Americana tchotchkes on their property that their house practically screams the Star-Spangled Banner. Every election their yard advertises support for the most far-right, Tea Party candidates to crawl out from under the conservative rock. And yet they want Metro government to tell people who they can and cannot sell their homes to? Seriously?
• Last week I had to explain to a neighbor why you can’t demand Metro government deny construction permits to a property owner when the zoning says they can build the horrible thing they want to build.
I mean look, I know “all politics is local,” but these are basic, common sense things. Just, you know, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Pretend you’re the one wanting to build something or buy a house or sell a house or whatever. Do you want the city telling you what you can do?
It just amazes me that we live in an era when our national discourse is swayed by average citizens acting like experts on the most complicated shit imaginable, yet I go to local zoning meetings and find out these same people are fucking idiots.
No wonder our country is so messed up.