Stupid is as stupid does

Ed Smith
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I do not view myself as inordinately stupid. I know, I know. There have been columns which seemed to point in that general direction. I have apologized for them on many occasions and don’t intend to do it again right now.

Admittedly, however, those apologies were intended for columns which I myself knew were stupid. I refuse to apologize for those which readers thought were somewhat less than brilliant. I have better things to do with my time. Besides, I don’t see (Russell) Wangersky or (Randy) Simms doing it, but they probably don’t get paid as much as I do. (That last line descends to a depth that not even stupid can reach.)

The finest compliment ever to reach my ears and eyes about my columns was “erudite” and “scintillating.” I’ve even seen them used together. To be honest, I didn’t know these terms were complimentary until I looked them up. I was a little confused when they weren’t listed in the Newfoundland Dictionary, but I finally did find them in Mrs. Webster’s compilations.

(Just had an email from a reader, by the way, who said my columns were shallow and dishonest. Well, of course they are. People in this province know that. It’s what they expect. So, this person had to be from somewhere else. Actually, he sounded like a Republican, except we don’t have Republicans around here. Don’t have snakes, raccoons, skunks or porcupines, either. Thank God we’re surrounded by water.)

I assume Miriam Webster was a woman, and hope I’m not going stupid again. That reminds me of a fellow in one of my English classes in university who blandly and blindly asserted one day that the poem “Trees” was written by James Joyce.

This fellow was forever trying to make himself look good at the expense of other students, so one of our classmates quickly pointed out what most of the rest of us already knew.

“Trees” wasn’t written by James Joyce. “Trees” was written by Joyce Kilmer.”

Our know-it-all friend was suitably chastened.

“Never heard of her,” he muttered and destroyed himself completely. (Joyce Kilmer was a man.)

I was about to say that I have never thought of myself as being gifted in anything. But I have a practical nature and a modicum or two of common sense that has only deserted me a few times in my life. I have to say these times were memorable.

When I see the antics of a few other select persons, however, I’m inclined to think that I am indeed brilliant. These people give stupid a bad name.

You already know about some of them.

One of the most recent blatant examples of this was the family who last week gave their daughter a sweet 16 birthday party. To make sure a goodly number of her friends turned up, they put an announcement on Facebook, together with the time and place. Before they had time to realize what was happening, more than a goodly number had arrived. When the police got there, in full riot gear, it was estimated a crowd of several thousand young people had descended on the premises and was totally out of control.

What were they thinking?

Stupidity can take many forms. Take the sad case of Tom’s dog. I’ve told you about him before. He was so stun that he put his backside in the water to get a drink. And the even sadder case of Tom himself. He decided to end it all by jumping off the stagehead with a large rock tied to his ankle. When he saw how deep the water was, however, he decided not to go through with it because, he said, he didn’t think he could hold his breath that long under water.

Stupidity has nothing to do with illiteracy, a mistake mainlanders made when they first met Newfoundlanders who hadn’t much formal schooling. Mainlanders make a lot of mistakes about us, but that’s OK. Mainlanders sometimes don’t know any better.

Being stupid has nothing to do with age, although that’s a mistake many of us make. We think really old people are cute, especially when they get romantically involved with each other. But that’s stupid of us because we should know better.

And perhaps that’s as good a definition of stupidity as any. People who do stupid things should know better.

Take the MHA from Labrador who is so wonderfully respectful of the beliefs of others. Last week, he characterized the spiritual beliefs of the natives around Muskrat Falls as “mumbo jumbo.” Isn’t that beautiful? If he has that kind of respect for people in his own district whom he represents, how much do you think he has for anyone else? If he wins his seat in the next election, that will be new heights of stupidity from the voters.

Then there’s the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar who last week appeared before several thousand people with a homophobic slur written on his face. Should he know better?

While we’re talking stupid, we should mention the fellow who made that film about the prophet Mohammed and offended a couple of billion people. He had to know what he was doing. He simply didn’t care. Many lives were lost and countless efforts at trying to build understanding between East and West went down the drain.

I’ve heard several people say that Muslims are stupid for reacting the way they did. Perhaps when we make a habit of praying five times a day we will have a little better understanding of those for whom their religion is their life.

Do I know better when I’m writing a stupid column? Does the editor of this esteemed publication know better when he OKs it for publication? Excellent questions.

Now, if the moose don’t all retreat to the Gaff Topsails, and the milk doesn’t curdle in your tea, next week I may answer them.

Another question: how many of you remember the children’s book that used to end like that?

I had one.

Ed Smith is an author who lives

in Springdale.  His email address is

Organizations: Toronto Blue Jays

Geographic location: Labrador, Muskrat Falls, Springdale

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