I’ve decided I want to be stupid.
If I were stupid, I couldn’t be a teacher. No, that’s not true: I couldn’t be a good teacher, but we all know there are plenty of bad teachers out there. So I wouldn’t be a good teacher any more, which is sad; but I wouldn’t know it, so there wouldn’t be any problem. What’s more, I wouldn’t ever worry about being a good teacher. I’d never have to worry about whether my students were really understanding the point I was trying to make, because I’d never have a point. I wouldn’t have to read their essays any more, and write comments on them trying to make them better, and feel the frustration when they don’t pay any attention to those comments but go right on making the same mistakes; I could start grading essays according to how many words they are and whether they follow MLA format perfectly and how many words over three syllables they use. I wouldn’t realize the damage that standardized testing does to students, and to education, because I wouldn’t understand the purpose or the power of education, and I wouldn’t know what an opportunity is lost when students are beaten down with tests; I’d just do what I was told, and teach to the test, and threaten my students with bad grades if they don’t pass. So I’d never have to worry about lesson plans ever again. I would swallow all of the snake oil that gets sold to teachers, and I’d believe everything the salesmen said about it, so I could change entirely my policies and lesson plans and teaching methods every three or four years; so I wouldn’t even get bored. Every day would be a PowerPoint presentation and a jigsaw lesson, followed by a standardized test. And you know what? I bet my students would love me. Because they’d never have to think, either.
If I were stupid, I couldn’t be a writer. But wait: that isn’t true, either. It just means I couldn’t write well. But – assuming I still wanted to be a writer, which I probably wouldn’t because I wouldn’t be able to see the world the way I do now and I wouldn’t care about what I couldn’t see; I wouldn’t believe that art could help make the world a better place, as well as making me a better person; I wouldn’t even believe that writing was an art, because I’d think that art was only painting pictures. So if I were a stupid writer, that would work out great: because my books wouldn’t take so long to complete, and I wouldn’t have to work so hard to write them well. I could just vomit out whatever drivel I wished about super-powered vampire werewolves who drive around at night in Lamborghinis (which I’d always call a “Lambo” because I couldn’t spell the full name) –
Dear God, I wouldn’t have to worry about spelling any more.
– fighting demons with their super-powered vampire werewolf kung fu and having sex with hot chicks at the same time. Then I could self-publish my e-books on the internet.
I bet they would sell a million goddamn copies.
I could stop reading challenging books: right now I am reading Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things because I will be teaching it to my AP class, and I am also reading Bertrand Russell’s Wisdom of the West (a condensed version of his three-volume A History of Western Thought) because I admire the hell out of Bertrand Russell and I am thirsty for more understanding of philosophy. But fuck that – sorry, screw that (if I were stupid, I’d believe that cursing is bad, especially the F-word): if I were stupid, I wouldn’t be teaching that strange and wonderful and ethereal and challenging novel; it’s got weird sexy stuff in it, and I’d know that was wrong to show to little kids like the high school juniors in my AP class. Plus I wouldn’t understand it because the story jumps around a lot and the plot is hard to follow. Plus I wouldn’t like it because it isn’t set in America and there aren’t any super vampire werewolves in it. Plus my class wouldn’t teach any full novels, because that takes too long and isn’t necessary to pass a standardized test that only asks you to read short passages and excerpts. And there’s no way I’d read philosophy, especially not a survey of philosophy starting in ancient Greece; I’d think the Greeks were homos and philosophy is gay. I’d get rid of every book like that and just read James Patterson. And books about sports. Though I’d prefer the audio books, because it’s easier and faster and not as boring.
Speaking of sports, I could watch football instead of spending my Sundays doing school work or reading or writing, and go to bars at night with my buddies and drink beer (and I’d just drink cheap American beer, instead of having to take the time to peruse the menu looking for good beer) and watch more sports and yell real loud when my favorite sports-squadron scored a goal-unit-basket. And I could wish that I had been good enough at sports to go pro, but known deep inside that it would never have happened, because I’m white and black people are better at sports. Which is why I would like baseball and hockey and NASCAR so much, because lots of white people are good at those sports. Though not hockey as much because they’re all Canucks and Russkies. Though watching the fights would be fun. And I could watch MMA and laugh when Kimbo Slice (That’d be a great name for one of my super vampire werewolves! Maybe I could change it to Jimbo, and then he wouldn’t sue me. Then I could make him white, too.) challenges his opponent to actually compare testicle size during a pre-fight interview.
Though I would have to worry about the size of my genitalia. And whether the size of my hands and feet gave an accurate representation of that size.
Speaking of hand and genital size, if I were stupid, I wouldn’t have to argue and debate and worry about politics: I could just vote for Donald Trump to make America great again, and go back to watching football. And then I could watch Fox News and never have to worry about reading or thinking about what is going on in the world: I could just be sure that America is the best country, that we have to have a strong enough military to keep everyone from invading us, but that if they did invade us, I’d be ready with all of my guns to fight them back, just like in Red Dawn, which would be one of my favorite movies. And maybe I’d have to worry about that socialist Bernie Sanders getting voted in, but I’d be pretty sure, in my heart of hearts, that America would never let that happen: I’d probably secretly believe that the Statue of Liberty and the statue of Rocky Balboa would come to life and drag Sanders down into New York harbor. And I’d never worry about that broad Hillary getting elected over The Donald: no way would America pick a woman over a man. We all know you can’t trust a woman with power – what happens when she has her period? She’d fire the nukes if she didn’t get enough chocolate ice cream! (I would have written Haagen-Dazs, but I can’t spell that, either. And Ben and Jerry are socialist hippies.)
I would believe that a wall on the border could keep out Mexican illegal immigrants. I’d believe that immigrants are bad. I could ignore uncomfortable irony like the history of my own family’s immigration to this country. Because I’m white.
I could chant “USA! USA!” without irony. And tear up when a small child or a crippled person sings the Star-Spangled Banner at my ballgames. And secretly hate that Beyonce sings better than anyone in country and western.
I could listen to country and western music. I wouldn’t have to change radio stations any more, because there’s only one country station here and I’d love every song because they all sound the same. I wouldn’t have to listen to challenging or depressing lyrics, or admire musical talent or songwriting ability; I’d just like the ones who say America is great and talk about drinking American beer and driving around in trucks. Which is all of them.
I could stop taking criticism to heart. I would think I was great because I am American, and a white male, and therefore I am the best people in the world, and everyone else is just jealous of what I have. Except for that genital thing. But I’m sure I could convince myself that there was no problem there. My hands are pretty big, after all. And it wouldn’t matter to me if people thought my writing was bad, or my teaching, or that I was behaving in any way wrongly: because I’d think they were haters, and Taylor Swift (who I would totally listen to, and try not to think about how hot I’d think she is because she’d be too young for me, but I’d know in my heart of hearts that she would totally have sex with me if I ever met her in a bar, because I am an American white male with not-too-small hands.) would have told me that haters gonna hate, hate, hate, and I just needed to shake it off. Man, that song is just so catchy! And that Kanye West guy is a racist. Though his wife is hot. And of course she married a black guy, because she’s got a huge butt and black guys like big butts. Sir Mix-A-Lot told us that.
If I were stupid, I would think that “were” sounds weird: because I wouldn’t know about the subjunctive mood and statements that are contrary to reality requiring a different verb; so I’d just say “was.”
If I was stupid, I wouldn’t worry about my diet. I wouldn’t care if animals suffered in factory farms, because they’re just animals and they don’t feel pain, plus the Bible says they’re here to serve us. I’d love bacon more than anything except steak, and best of all would be steak wrapped in bacon and topped with lobster. Wrapped in bacon. Maybe with a bacon milkshake on the side. I wouldn’t care about my cholesterol, because I’d know that America has the greatest health care system in the world and I could have all the triple and quadruple bypasses I needed when my ticker started giving out. And I wouldn’t care about my weight, because I’d lift weights – that is to say, I’d do it differently than I do now, because I would do bench presses and curls and maybe five sit-ups a week and call it good – because as long as my pecs and arms were big, I’d think I was hot, because check out these guns! Plus women don’t think the same way about appearance. Men are visual, they need chicks to be hot; but women just need them to be manly, so they feel protected and safe. And I’ve got all the guns I need. Get it? Get it? Because I meant my biceps AND the Glock on my nightstand!
Yes. I want this. Last night I went to see Of Mice and Men on stage, and it was lovely and heart-wrenching; but if I was stupid, I never would have gone to see it, and it wouldn’t have made me sad. And then afterwards, I spent a fair while writing an irritated response to a comment on Facebook from a woman who didn’t understand everything I was saying in my argument, but she was pretty sure I was a socialist and wanted to take tax money away from hard-working Americans to give to the junkies on welfare. But then I had to delete my reply. Because reasoned discourse is no longer acceptable in this country: all we care about is if people agree with us, and if they don’t agree with us, there must be something wrong with them; and if they tell us we are wrong, then we get offended. I had to delete the comment because I am a teacher, and teachers are not allowed – ever – to be offensive, even if the only reason we are offensive is because other people don’t like our arguments.
I had to delete my comment because six years ago, an offended woman on Facebook nearly got me fired and banned from teaching in Oregon by complaining about a comment I made, which led my employer to my blog, where I had written things that were true, but not polite, and not acceptable coming from someone who was supposed to love and protect and coddle all of the children while preparing them for the tests and cheering for them at football games, which is, I think, how most political entities view ideal teachers. I was called “morally reprehensible” for what I said. And the worst thing is this: that I have had to think about that, and whether it is true, and decide that to some extent it is, and then I have had to feel both shame and doubt because of it.
And last night, I realized: as long as I am a teacher in America, I will never be able to say exactly what I think, and I will never be able to argue, especially not about controversial issues like politics and guns and war and racism and religion and education, because telling someone that they are wrong, especially when they are, is offensive, and particularly for me because of my history, offending anyone, anyplace, anytime, could very easily get me fired. This means not only that I will always have to worry about what I write and post online, but also that I cannot use my abilities, my greatest assets – my intellect and my words – to do what I think is right, to try to make the world a better place through critical thought and reasoned argument, because I will never be able to argue, not as long as I teach. And probably not after that, because I’d like to be either a professional writer or own a small business, but if I make people mad at me by taking their bad arguments apart online, they will give me bad publicity, which will hurt my career, whatever career it is. I will always have to worry about what someone else will do to me if I tell them they are wrong. Because reasoned discourse is dead. We prefer circuses.
And I decided that I don’t want to worry about anything any more. I just want to do what I’m told and work hard and do the things that make me feel good.
I’d rather be Lennie than George. All the way to the end.