“In America, you have the right to be stupid if you want to be, and you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be.”
The words echoed from the podium of the newly-minted Secretary of State John Kerry during a discussion with students in Germany; just one part of a long nine-day stint in Europe, his first overseas trip as America’s top diplomat.
Taken out of context, Kerry’s statement might be considered offensive, but he has a good point. After all, I was taught that America is the land of opportunity, where anyone could become anything they could dream to be.
Really, Kerry was saying how we, as an American society, have rights that we embrace ... and my God, do we embrace them. He said how Americans “live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point view.”
“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world, and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another,” he said. “The reason is, that’s freedom, freedom of speech.”
Some say that it was Kerry’s first major gaffe as Secretary of State, to say we have a right to be stupid. But I don’t see it that way. In fact, truer words have never been spoken. Maybe it wasn’t the best phrasing of words from a political standpoint, but there’s a lot of truth to what he said (and bear in mind that he was talking to a group of students in a country where freedom of speech is still limited). We really do have a right to be stupid. It’s our personal right, an inherent right, a constitutional right, and maybe even part of the original negotiation between God and Moses as God handed down the ten commandments.
OK, so maybe it’s not in black and white (nor was it ever in stone tablet, penned by the finger of God himself), but our right to be stupid is implied. It’s implied with every other human right, and interwoven into every other constitutional freedom, from our freedom of speech to our freedom of religion – even right down to our freedom to bear arms (and it’s the only explantation I have that justifies some of the ongoing gun debates I’ve heard in the last two months).
We see people exercising their right to be stupid on a daily basis. We see it by the people who intentionally double park their 1998 Toyota Corolla so no one will park next to it, or by the teenagers who don’t believe the law of inertia applies when they step foot into oncoming traffic, and by the people who try to push a door open when sign above the handle says “pull.” It’s a right everyone is entitled to, even if they do abuse it.
As a people with the right to be stupid, I say we continue to exercise that right just as we have done so in the past. Let’s continue our bigotry, our unfounded assumptions, our general idiocy because that’s our innate right – one of the many advantages in living in the land of the free. Let’s continue our Facebook rants and our ‘30 Seconds’ calls. Let’s always pass the blame because it’s easier than taking the hit on the shoulder, and let’s keep organizing protests in the park, even when we don’t know what we’re protesting or why.
Let’s keep saying and doing those stupid things that make others slap their forehead in frustration and muttering “you’re such an idiot ...” because that is our right. That is what allows our thickheadedness, our right to be stupid, to shine brightly in what might otherwise become a boring country full of logical reasoning.