Was it the columnist H.L. Mencken who said that a person would never know poverty by betting against the intellect of the average American? Well, regardless of who said it, one need look no further than the small city of Fairmont, Minnesota for an example of the collective idiocy sadly displayed here in America. It runs rampant particularly in those places known nostalgically as the “Heartland”.

I don’t want to upset the citizens of Fairmont. I suspect that they wont be bothered for two reasons: 1.) hardly anyone reads my blog 2.) I suspect based on listening to this story about the city’s reaction to the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace, many in in Fairmont don’t bother reading at all.

National Public Radio did a fabulous job covering the fallout of the city council’s unanimous approval of a resolution supporting the creation of a Department of Peace. Nearly two dozen cities across the nation have done so, including Detroit, Newark and Chicago, so the small community in southern Minnesota was hardly breaking ground when, spurred on members of the Fairmont Peace Club, the city council passed a resolution supporting HR 808.

Two weeks after the resolution passed, the hue and cry of residents forced three out of five councilors to conciliate and rescind their votes on the non-binding and symbolic resolution supporting a bill that will likely never reach the floor of the House.

But why the furor over something that seems to be quite logical. After all, as Peace club member Judi Poulson pointed out to NPR, in a world of conflict, “peace is strategy, just like war…it takes a lot of hard work and skillful people that have been trained.”

 Turns out Fairmont residents such as Gene Hackett see it another way.

“I grew up under a time when my generation was involved with peace,” Hackett said to NPR. “The things that they stood for with that peace symbol were wrong. It was bad.”

Hackett was insensed upon finding out that his city had kowtowed to the feel-good liberalism of peace, he decided to give the idea some consideration.

 Hacket logged on to his computer and visited Peace Alliance. The organization supports HR 808. What he saw when he went to the page disturbed him greatly. On the Peace Alliance Web site was displayed, of all the things, a peace symbol. He made up his mind and clicked X on the browser page.

“All I had to do was go on the Web site and find the peace symbol as one of their symbols to know it was wrong and I wanted nothing to do with it,” he told a meeting of the city council last fall.

Hackett’s not the only Fairmont resident who really took the time to think about the Peace Department.

 Jerome Korteum called it a “fluffy peace thing”, “There’s no reason for this type of stuff, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.”

Reporter Daniel Zwerdling was slightly condescending in following up on the  story. But who can blame him? After all, these are stupid people, plain and simple.

 Case in point: Many of those who came out against the resolution had admitted to not reading the bill at all. And when asked why they opposed it, town morons Neil Breitbarth and Duane Roloff claimed that there was language in the legislation that would coopt American sovereignty and hand it to the United Nations.

The bill mentions the United Nations in four places and nowhere in it does it hand one iota of American decision-making to the U.N. Nowhere.

It’s funny to listen to these guys grasping at straws to explain to Zwerdling how the body, located in Manhattan’s Turtle Bay, would hold power over America. It’s actually a little uncomfortable, too. But like anyone stuck in their ways, ignorant and unwilling to analyze new ideas, Breitbarth and Roloff are adamant that the bill is a bad idea. Neither bothered to read it. Both hold out. Both are fine examples of what Mencken was referring to.

When he spoke to the city council Breitbarth harkened back to a bygone era. Of the legislation, he said: This view of human rights is not the same as our view of human rights but is more closely aligned with the view held by all communist nations.

Mind you that there are only four remaining “communist” nations in the world, only two of which actually resemble communism in all of its failures. So what is it? Shouldn’t tough guys like Breightbarth admire the way China and North Korea handle dissidents?

As humorous as I found the NPR piece, it was still a bit depressing. In America we have an abundance of natural resources, wealth, libraries and academic institutions. Although the first two are highly valued, the last two seem to be held in suspicion. This writer will not claim to be a particularly brilliant person. I do however, pride myself in reading. And certainly if I was going to speak on a national news network, let alone to my city council, I would like to know what I’m talking about.

 

Many of us Americans are willfully ignorant. That’s the way we want it to be. It feels good to be tribal, quaint and uninformed. That’s the type of feel-good living that helps us to justify the most irrational, immoral and inhumane behaviors, particularly war.

 

Four years on, the American public has nobody to blame in the Iraq mess by herself. Without analyzing it at all, a majority of Americans polled in 2002 and 2003 supported the illegal invasion of a sovereign nation without questioning the justification behind such a disastrous move. Unfortunately, I suspect that we will be the same group of people to turn a blind eye to the repercusions and refuse to figure out how it happened and how such a thing can be avoided.


Patriotism should be about reason and intellect, not feeling good. The people of Fairmont, Minnesota who came out against the Peace Department resolution without examining it, should be doubly ashamed of themselves.

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