Roach: Dumb and Dumber

"I wonder daily when and how we became so profoundly stupid."
man wearing a mask over his eyes with a gray flag in the background

As I watch the president of the most powerful nation in world history blurt nonsense regarding our worst public health crisis in a century, I find myself asking a simple question:

“When did we become so stupid?”

We are the nation that saved the world from Hitler. We had a president who once made the outlandish promise we’d land a man on the moon within a decade — and then we did it. We cured polio, a previous viral scourge. We created a digital economy, which followed the mass production economy — also created as the arsenal of American democracy that defeated the aforementioned Hitler.

We’ve not only been admired for our productivity, we’ve been admired for our freedom. Somehow, while certain monarchies, oligarchies and totalitarian regimes turned to ash, American democracy flourished. The Berlin Wall fell because young people on the other side lusted after our rock ‘n’ roll, blue jeans, movies and the other trappings of a free nation. We have our faults, but not enough to kill off the promise of America.

But all that is the past. Now, I wonder daily when and how we became so profoundly stupid.

I ask that question as the ardent followers of the current failed president respond to his inane mutterings with a cacophony of ignorance; jutting out their chins as they declare the wearing of masks to be an infringement on their right to deliver a viral blast in the faces of fellow Americans.

The toll of this deadly disease is the equivalent of 10 airplanes each carrying 100 people crashing every single day for months. No. Wait. It’s actually worse, because plane crashes usually kill everyone instantly. The victims don’t linger for weeks on ventilators like some COVID-19 sufferers.

Somehow wearing a mask and distancing is too much of a sacrifice for these folks posing as patriots, wearing their flag pants and red hats as they demand the right to remain ignorant.

Clearly these flag wavers are unaware of the American concept of shared sacrifice. My father told me tales of Madison during World War II. While my grandfather was serving in the Pacific Ocean theater for four years, his family back home had to make do without rubber, sugar, meat, gasoline and other staples. My dad always liked beets. The reason? That’s what they had to eat during the war. I assume they didn’t want to force beets on men risking their lives, so the civilians endured eating the strange vegetables.

Our current wave of astounding stupidity revels in assaulting facts. The horde and their president have developed a quaint habit of answering facts they don’t accept or comprehend by creating conspiracies. There was a time in America when the only conspiracies we tolerated had to do with John F. Kennedy’s assassination and whether Elvis Presley and Tupac Shakur were still alive. But now every fact that runs counter to the view of the grifter and his acolytes is answered instantly by the most phantasmagorical plot lines ever conceived.

The denial of facts comes in many forms, but the retorts are predictable. At one time or another obvious truths are refuted with blame for the media, voter fraud, George Soros, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or anyone who happens to be educated and qualified. Yet not one of those conspiracies has been formally investigated by this president during his tenure. Not one indictment has been issued. Not one.

In addition, the fact-averse president wants our children to go back into the classroom, which would lay out a buffet for the virus. We can assume this president wants the students who survive to become doctors and scientists whom he can also ignore one day.

To be fair, the American right hasn’t cornered the market on stupidity. In liberal Madison many people are demanding we “defund the police” just as we’re seeing a greater need for police to respond to gun-related crimes in Madison, which have left more shell casings than acorns on the city’s streets. Reform? Absolutely. But defund? Really?

Someday soon I hope we stop being stupid and once again take pride in being smart, educated and informed. Maybe then we can all agree that Elvis and Tupac are dead.

John Roach, a Madison-based television producer, has written this monthly column for 27 years. Reach him at