My grandmother’s go-to question when she believes you’re doing something she doesn’t agree with or something she doesn’t understand is, “Are you stupid?” I’ve heard this question a million times in my life. It’s the reason I haven’t played checkers with her (or anyone else) since I was a teenager. When I used to put my little red piece in danger of being jumped, or worse, double jumped, I’d face the dreaded question, are you stupid? Or, if she didn’t want to be implicit, like when I helped my illiterate cousin write a letter that was later used in court, she announced, that was stupid, with extra emphasis on the first syllable, so that it sounded like SSSTOOOpid.
Although I knew otherwise, I always felt like the dumbest person in the world when she said it, as if she had top-secret information for not doing “stupid” things in life. As if she, alone, held the keys to making intelligent, sound decisions. As if she’d never done anything someone else could call, stupid.
And so, I’m hypersensitive to the phrase.
But I’ve never heard it used so much and so flippantly as I have in the past two months. I wish I would’ve started a counter for how many times I’ve seen or heard, They’re so stupid! You know who they are? I’ll tell you what I think, similar to Grannie, it’s anyone who isn’t doing what the accuser thinks someone else should be doing.
First, it was Spring Breakers in Florida and Mardi Gras partiers in New Orleans. A bunch of teenagers and college students were called stupid for doing what some teenagers and college students do: be self-centered and party. What would you have done during a pandemic if you were 18, 19, or 21? Maybe you were more responsible than these young people; maybe you would’ve taken yourself right home and self-quarantined.
The phrase then filtered to people’s parents who were 60 years or older. For some reason, my friends and family couldn’t understand why their parents wouldn’t listen to them and just stay home. There was even this clever meme circulating about caging said “stupid” parents. I reminded a friend that I’m sure his mama was thinking the same thing about him in the early 90s. She probably wished she could’ve caged him so that he wouldn’t harm society or himself.
Next, it trickled down to anyone who wouldn’t stay home, even though CDC guidelines stated people could “walk, hike, or cycle.” I think it prompted the #StayTheFuckHome mantra. Listen, cuss words are a part of my vocabulary, but I’d venture to say that no one wants to be the target of a global cuss out; however, that’s what we’re doing now.
Eventually, they’re stupid included people who didn’t wear masks, even though the CDC and the surgeon general said it was recommended. I noticed two things when I went to the grocery store: when I didn’t yet have a mask to wear, mask wearers peered over their material as if I was a crazy person; when I wore my mask, then non-mask wearers looked at me like I was a crazy person, leading me to a conclusion. No matter what, people have a judgment when you don’t do what they think you should do.
I don’t even want to get into the church Easter goers. The masses hadn’t developed a word suitable enough to describe just how stupid they thought these parishioners were. So, I’ll return to Florida.
At the time I’m writing this, Jacksonville Beach has re-opened access, with restrictions: there is no sitting and you can only venture out during specific hours. Just like that, an old photo of Palm Beach, 285 miles away in South Florida, along with a Jacksonville headline was posted. And a new crop of judgments has re-surfaced. Yep. You guessed it. They’re stupid. This time “they” includes Jax Beach residents, the mayor, and anyone who chooses to walk on the beach, even though the photo depicted a false image.
Just to be clear, I’ve been following the CDC guidelines and the rules of my state. I wear masks. I wash my hands and use hand sanitizer. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know how much I love the beach; however, I won’t be walking alongside the Atlantic ocean anytime soon.
And you know what else I won’t be doing? I won’t be calling others stupid if they make a different choice.