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Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue In The Land Of The Free By Charles P. Pierce

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue In The Land Of The Free By Charles P. Pierce

Amazon.com Review
Book Description
The Culture Wars Are Over and the Idiots Have Won.

A veteran journalists acidically funny, righteously angry lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States.

In the midst of a career-long quest to separate the smart from the pap, Charles Pierce had a defining moment at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he observed a dinosaur. Wearing a saddle… But worse than this was when the proprietor exclaimed to a cheering crowd, “We are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!” He knew then and there it was time to try and salvage the Land of the Enlightened, buried somewhere in this new Home of the Uninformed.

With his razor-sharp wit and erudite reasoning, Pierce delivers a gut-wrenching, side-splitting lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States, and how a country founded on intellectual curiosity has somehow deteriorated into a nation of simpletons more apt to vote for an American Idol contestant than a presidential candidate.

With Idiot America, Pierces thunderous denunciation is also a secret call to action, as he hopes that somehow, being intelligent will stop being a stigma, and that pinheads will once again be pitied, not celebrated.

A Q&A with Charles P. Pierce

Question: What inspired, or should I say drove, you to write Idiot America?
Charles P. Pierce: The germ of the idea came as I watched the extended coverage of the death of Terri Schiavo. I wondered how so many people could ally themselves with so much foolishness despite the fact that it was doing them no perceptible good, politically or otherwise. And it looked like the national media simply could not help itself but be swept along. This started me thinking and, when I read a clip in the New York Times about the Creation Museum, I pitched an idea to Mark Warren, my editor at Esquire, that said simply, “Dinosaurs with saddles.” What we determined the theme of the eventual piece—and of the book—would be was “The Consequences Of Believing Nonsense.”

Question: You visited the Creation Museum while writing Idiot America. Describe your experience there. What was your first thought when you saw a dinosaur with a saddle on its back?
Charles P. Pierce: My first thought was that it was hilarious. My second thought was that I was the only person in the place who thought it was, which made me both angry and a little melancholy. Outside of the fact that its “science” is a god-awful parodic stew of paleontology, geology, and epistemology, all of them wholly detached from the actual intellectual method of each of them. The most disappointing thing is that the completed museum is so dreadfully grim and earnest and boring. It even makes dragon myths servant to its fringe biblical interpretations. Who wants to live in a world where dragons are boring?

Question: Is there a specific turning point where, as a country, we moved away from prizing experience to trusting the gut over intellect?
Charles P. Pierce: I dont know if theres one point that you can point to and say, “This is when it happened.” The conflict between intellectual expertise and reflexive emotion—often characterized as “good old common sense,” when it is neither common nor sense—has been endemic to American culture and politics since the beginning. I do think that my profession, journalism, went off the tracks when it accepted as axiomatic the notion that “Perception is reality.” No. Perception is perception and reality is reality, and if the former doesnt conform to the latter, then it’s the journalists job to hammer and hammer the reality until the perception conforms to it. Thats how “intelligent design” gets treated as “science” simply because a lot of people believe in it.

Question: You delve into Ignatius Donnelly’s life story. In 1880, he published the book Idiot America?
Charles P. Pierce: Cranks are noble because cranks are independent. Cranks do not care if their ideas succeed—theyd like them to do so—but cranks stand apart. Their value comes when, occasionally, their lonely dissents from the commonplace affect the culture, at which point either the culture moves to adopt them and their ideas come to influence the culture. The American crank is not someone with 600 radio stations spewing bilious canards to an audience of “dittoheads.” The concept of a “dittohead” is anathema to the American crank. He is a freethinker addressing an audience of them, whether that audience is made up of one person or a thousand. A charlatan is a crank who sells out.

Question: What is the most dangerous aspect of Idiot America?
Charles P. Pierce: The most dangerous aspect of Idiot America is that it encourages us to abandon our birthright to be informed citizens of a self-governing republic. America cannot function on automatic pilot, and, too often, we dont notice that it has been until the damage has already been done.

Question: Is there a voice or leader of Idiot America?
Charles P. Pierce: The leaders of Idiot America are those people who abandoned their obligations to the above. There are lots of people making an awful lot of money selling their ideas and their wares to Idiot America. Idiot America is an act of collective will, a product of lassitude and sloth.

Question: What is the difference between stupidity and glorifying ignorance?
Charles P. Pierce: Stupidity is as stupidity does, to quote a uniquely stupid movie. It has been with us always and always will be. But we moved into an era in which stupidity was celebrated if it managed to sell itself well, if it succeeded, if it made people money. That is “glorifying ignorance.” We moved into an era in which the reflexive instincts of the Gut were celebrated at the expense of reasoned, informed opinion. To this day, we have a political party—the Republicans—who, because it embraced a “movement of Conservatism” that celebrated anti-intellectualism is now incapable of conducting itself in any other way. That has profound political and cultural consequences, and the truly foul part about it was that so many people engaged in it knowing full well they were peddling poison.

Question: While writing Idiot America, what story or incident made you the most incensed?
Charles P. Pierce: Without question, it was talking to the people at Woodside Hospice, who shared with me what it was like to be inside the whirlwind stirred up by people who used the prolonged death of Terri Schiavo as a political and social volleyball to advance their own unpopular and reckless agenda. There are people—Sean Hannity comes to mind—who, if there is a just god in heaven, should be locked in a room for 20 minutes with Annie Santa Maria, the indomitable woman who works with the patients at the hospice. Only one of them would come out, and it wouldnt be him.

Question: With the election of President Obama, is Idiot America coming to an end? Or, will there always be a place for idiocy in America?
Charles P. Pierce: Look at the political opposition to President Obama. “Socialist!” “Fascist!” “Coming to get your guns.” Hysteria from the hucksters of Idiot America is still at high-tide. People are killing other people and specifically attributing their action to imaginary oppression stoked by radio talk-show stars and television pundits. That Glenn Beck has achieved the prominence he has makes me wonder if there is a just god in heaven.

Why Buy A Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue In The Land Of The Free By Charles P. Pierce?
Book Description The Culture Wars Are Over and the Idiots Have Won.

A veteran journalists acidically funny, righteously angry lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States.

In the midst of a career-long quest to separate the smart from the pap, Charles Pierce had a defining moment at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he observed a dinosaur. Wearing a saddle… But worse than this was when the proprietor exclaimed to a cheering crowd, “We are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!” He knew then and there it was time to try and salvage the Land of the Enlightened, buried somewhere in this new Home of the Uninformed.

With his razor-sharp wit and erudite reasoning, Pierce delivers a gut-wrenching, side-splitting lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States, and how a country founded on intellectual curiosity has somehow deteriorated into a nation of simpletons more apt to vote for an American Idol contestant than a presidential candidate.

With Idiot America, Pierces thunderous denunciation is also a secret call to action, as he hopes that somehow, being intelligent will stop being a stigma, and that pinheads will once again be pitied, not celebrated.

A Q&A with Charles P. Pierce Question: What inspired, or should I say drove, you to write Idiot America? Charles P. Pierce: The germ of the idea came as I watched the extended coverage of the death of Terri Schiavo. I wondered how so many people could ally themselves with so much foolishness despite the fact that it was doing them no perceptible good, politically or otherwise. And it looked like the national media simply could not help itself but be swept along. This started me thinking and, when I read a clip in the New York Times about the Creation Museum, I pitched an idea to Mark Warren, my editor at Esquire, that said simply, “Dinosaurs with saddles.” What we determined the theme of the eventual piece—and of the book—would be was “The Consequences Of Believing Nonsense.”

Question: You visited the Creation Museum while writing Idiot America. Describe your experience there. What was your first thought when you saw a dinosaur with a saddle on its back? Charles P. Pierce: My first thought was that it was hilarious. My second thought was that I was the only person in the place who thought it was, which made me both angry and a little melancholy. Outside of the fact that its “science” is a god-awful parodic stew of paleontology, geology, and epistemology, all of them wholly detached from the actual intellectual method of each of them. The most disappointing thing is that the completed museum is so dreadfully grim and earnest and boring. It even makes dragon myths servant to its fringe biblical interpretations. Who wants to live in a world where dragons are boring?

Question: Is there a specific turning point where, as a country, we moved away from prizing experience to trusting the gut over intellect? Charles P. Pierce: I dont know if theres one point that you can point to and say, “This is when it happened.” The conflict between intellectual expertise and reflexive emotion—often characterized as “good old common sense,” when it is neither common nor sense—has been endemic to American culture and politics since the beginning. I do think that my profession, journalism, went off the tracks when it accepted as axiomatic the notion that “Perception is reality.” No. Perception is perception and reality is reality, and if the former doesnt conform to the latter, then it’s the journalists job to hammer and hammer the reality until the perception conforms to it. Thats how “intelligent design” gets treated as “science” simply because a lot of people believe in it.

Question: You delve into Ignatius Donnelly’s life story. In 1880, he published the book Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in an attempt to prove that the lost city existed. Yet, you characterize Donnelly as a lovable crank, and don’t take issue with him as you do with modern eccentrics, like Rush Limbaugh. What’s the difference between a harmless crank and a crank in Idiot America? Charles P. Pierce: Cranks are noble because cranks are independent. Cranks do not care if their ideas succeed—theyd like them to do so—but cranks stand apart. Their value comes when, occasionally, their lonely dissents from the commonplace affect the culture, at which point either the culture moves to adopt them and their ideas come to influence the culture. The American crank is not someone with 600 radio stations spewing bilious canards to an audience of “dittoheads.” The concept of a “dittohead” is anathema to the American crank. He is a freethinker addressing an audience of them, whether that audience is made up of one person or a thousand. A charlatan is a crank who sells out.

Question: What is the most dangerous aspect of Idiot America? Charles P. Pierce: The most dangerous aspect of Idiot America is that it encourages us to abandon our birthright to be informed citizens of a self-governing republic. America cannot function on automatic pilot, and, too often, we dont notice that it has been until the damage has already been done.

Question: Is there a voice or leader of Idiot America? Charles P. Pierce: The leaders of Idiot America are those people who abandoned their obligations to the above. There are lots of people making an awful lot of money selling their ideas and their wares to Idiot America. Idiot America is an act of collective will, a product of lassitude and sloth.

Question: What is the difference between stupidity and glorifying ignorance? Charles P. Pierce: Stupidity is as stupidity does, to quote a uniquely stupid movie. It has been with us always and always will be. But we moved into an era in which stupidity was celebrated if it managed to sell itself well, if it succeeded, if it made people money. That is “glorifying ignorance.” We moved into an era in which the reflexive instincts of the Gut were celebrated at the expense of reasoned, informed opinion. To this day, we have a political party—the Republicans—who, because it embraced a “movement of Conservatism” that celebrated anti-intellectualism is now incapable of conducting itself in any other way. That has profound political and cultural consequences, and the truly foul part about it was that so many people engaged in it knowing full well they were peddling poison.

Question: While writing Idiot America, what story or incident made you the most incensed? Charles P. Pierce: Without question, it was talking to the people at Woodside Hospice, who shared with me what it was like to be inside the whirlwind stirred up by people who used the prolonged death of Terri Schiavo as a political and social volleyball to advance their own unpopular and reckless agenda. There are people—Sean Hannity comes to mind—who, if there is a just god in heaven, should be locked in a room for 20 minutes with Annie Santa Maria, the indomitable woman who works with the patients at the hospice. Only one of them would come out, and it wouldnt be him.

Question: With the

Customer Reviews & Opinions

Necessary reading
Extraordinary reading. This astringent book needed to be written about a trend in America that needs to be stopped. Pierce has been an astute observer of the American condition for years in the pages of major magazines and on NPR. If you haven’t read his piece for Esquire about the cynic & Obama before the election, do yourself a favor, if only for his original and highly prescient observation that America will never undergo a “true” transformation until it demands a true reckoning and examination of itself, and what we’ve become on the way to getting in the political and social and economic muck we’re in. (Thanks Bush, Cheney, and Rove. Now go away, hope you never get prosecuted for war crimes, and never show your faces again.) This book is a logical extension of that article, and must-reading for anyone who feels we’re on a worrisome though not irredeemable path as a nation. We’ll survive. We always do. But books like this prod us to do better than we’ve been.

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Carver: A Life In Poems By Marilyn Nelson

Carver: A Life In Poems By Marilyn Nelson

From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up-By offering glimpses into George Washington Carvers life story through a series of lyrical poems, the structure of Nelsons book is as inspired as its occasional use of black-and-white photographs as illustrations. The poems are simple, sincere, and sometimes so beautiful they seem not works of artifice, but honest statements of pure, natural truths (The Prayer of Miss Budd and Lovingly Sons, in particular). Ironically, the books greatest strength, its writing, is also occasionally its weakness. In a few of the poems the language and the structure seem haphazard and these selections come across as underwritten (Odalisque, 1905) or as little better than notes for selections yet to come (Driving Dr. Carver, Letter to Mrs. Hardwick). Still, students will find much to glean from this volume and many of the poems will be perfect for reading aloud and make good monologues. A final grace note: the book will undoubtedly encourage some young people to learn more about this remarkable man.
Herman Sutter, Saint Agnes Academy, Houston, TX
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From
One of the very few black Americans accorded great respect before the 1960s was botanist and educator George Washington Carver (1864?-1943). In a fine biography in poems, Nelson beautifully and movingly revives his reputation, made to seem paltry compared with that of such resuscitated firebrands as Garvey, Robeson, and DuBois. She traces Carver from his recovery after being kidnapped in infancy to his death while the famous Tuskegee airmen fill the campus on which he had worked since 1896 with the droning of aircraft. The life in between is characterized by hard work, intellectual curiosity, personal humility, devotion to the betterment of black Americans, enormous self-possession, and practical Christian piety. Nelson stints none of those characteristics in depicting Carver as good but not self-righteous, dedicated but not monomaniacal, invaluable but not self-important. She also renders Carvers context nontendentiously, in some poems conjuring racism at its worst and in others showing that particular whites helped Carver throughout his life. Historic photos illustrate Nelsons work with modest beauty. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Why Buy A Carver: A Life In Poems By Marilyn Nelson?
This collection of poems assembled by award-winning writer Marilyn Nelson provides young readers with a compelling, lyrical account of the life of revered African-American botanist and inventor George Washington Carver. Born in 1864 and raised by white slave owners, Carver left home in search of an education and eventually earned a master’s degree in agriculture. In 1896, he was invited by Booker T. Washington to head the agricultural department at the all-black-staffed Tuskegee Institute. There he conducted innovative research to find uses for crops such as cowpeas, sweet potatoes, and peanuts, while seeking solutions to the plight of landless black farmers. Through 44 poems, told from the point of view of Carver and the people who knew him, Nelson celebrates his character and accomplishments. She includes prose summaries of events and archival photographs.

Customer Reviews & Opinions

excellent!
i really enjoyed this collection of poems by george washington carver! i have plans to be a teacher when i finish college and i think that i will use this book in my teaching plans! the poetry is basic at times so that most any student will be able to understand and yet it has a deepness that will require some thought on behalf of the students. i recommend this book to anyone who enjoys poetry, history, or teaching. i have put this book on my wish list with hope that someone will but it as a christmas gift for me. that is how much i liked carver’s work. kudos to mrs. nelson for putting the collection together and getting it published. i can clearly see why carver a life in poems won the newberry award.

Entrepreneurial Alchemy?s Best and Greatest Advocate
As a person coming from a hard-core science and engineering background, I never thought that poetry had any `value’. I never once saw in poetry insight into the nature and state of affairs of human beings. So I was very surprised when I read Ms. Nelson’s Carver, A Life in Poems. Ms. Nelson presents us with poetry so rich in texture, so layered in meaning that these few lines of prose convey much, much more information than hundreds of pages of dry text. The book skillfully combines anecdotal historical footnotes with powerful poetic prose to tell the story of the most influential man in American agricultural history.

Carver the man overcame severe hardship and the prejudices of others to achieve great things. Living in a time when opportunities were few and far between for American Blacks, and slavery was a vivid recollection, Carver blazed a trail that few have been able to even approach, let alone top, since then. Even though he dealt with his share of racism, not every person not of African-American ancestry was unkind to him. Given the least of all of his peers, black or white, Carver went on to achieve the most in life. In spite of the hardships, the racism, and even the slights and insults of his own people, he left behind a legacy of good work, compassion, and technical accomplishment that stands the test of time. As such, Carver takes a solid place among the great minds of antiquity- from Imhotep, Egypt’s greatest builder, to Confucius, China’s greatest thinker and statesman.

Although Carver’s array of inventions is impressive, his ingenuity and knack for turning what others see as worthless into something valuable, as in the poems `Chemistry 101′ and `The Wild Garden’ and `God’s Little Workshop’, is truly astounding. Carver had tremendous impact in a host of scientific disciplines- agronomy, botany, chemistry, and plant pathology to name a few. For me, Carver’s life demonstrates the importance of a creative and spiritual base. Carver could not have developed the hundreds of practical uses for the `goober’, or peanut-the plant that African slaves brought to the United States, and that White farmers fed to their animals before eating themselves- if he did not have a highly developed creative side. Moreover, his unyielding faith in the Creator, and his reliance on his faith in times of great peril and suffering, enabled him to endure what I and most other people would consider to be the unendurable. Carver’s creativity and great spiritual faith gave him the inspiration to make practical use of those things that others considered worthless. In many ways, Carver was the unassailable prototype of the entrepreneurial alchemist- he created something of value out of literally nothing. Professor Carver’s many achievements clearly demonstrate the importance of the study of economic botany.

I would like to add that four of his most important contributions to agricultural science- resting the land, crop rotations, application of riparian sediments and the use of legumes to replenish the vital nutrients of intensively cultivated and depleted soils, closely parallel the ecological practices of the great agrarian societies of Asia and Central and South America. The Native Americans, and their Asian compatriots, were well aware of the benefits of these practices, and had developed strong, stable and successful agricultural methods which in turn allowed for the flowering of some of history’s greatest civilizations- the Inca, the Maya and the Aztec cultures. In fact, as F H King pointed out in his groundbreaking work, Farmers of Forty Centuries, at the beginning of the 20th century, the farmers of Asia had been using these techniques continuously to maintain and perpetuate the cultivation of the same plots of land, feeding increasing numbers of their people, for over four thousand years. In effect, these ancient farmers had developed sustainable farming practices and projected them four millennia into the present. In this way, I see Professor Carver as not only the Father of the Peanut industry, he is, and rightly so, The Father of Sustainable Agriculture in America.

It is both refreshing and heart-warming to me to know that an African-American man of science can also be a Renaissance Man in the fullest sense of the word. Gifted in the arts and gifted in the sciences, Carver blended art and practicality in a way I can only hope to partially attain. From this book, I humbly receive a new and invaluable hero, a new and awesome role model- Professor Carver, Jack of All Trades, Renaissance Man Extraordinaire- a true man of the people, a true Titan of Science.

Great Book in Great Condition
I was amazed that I was able to get the book as quickly as I did and it is in great shape. This is a very good book.

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