We’re a nation of dumbasses

Despite the down economy, falling gas prices have lured consumers back to the sport utility vehicles they once gave the cold shoulder. Workers at General Motor’s Arlington, Texas, SUV assembly are scheduled to remain on overtime for the rest of the year. The plant builds full-size sport utility vehicles like the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade, sales of which have rebounded in recent weeks as gas prices have fallen.

—Associated Press report

Have I not been the soul of patience?

Did I not, except for a slip now and then, refrain from calling the vast majority of SUV-driving Americans simple-minded jackasses?

Though it’s been three decades since I first wrote, in the Spartan Daily of San Jose State University, that neither the nation nor the world could support America’s wasteful automotive habits, isn’t it true that I haven’t rubbed people’s noses in their comeuppance as forcefully as I could have?

That was then. This is now. And if people are moving back to 12mpg vehicles five months after $4.20 gas showed us the cost of our profligacy, then tact and diplomacy have failed. I can be blunt:

We’re a nation of dumbasses.

You knew that in a general way, right? But now it’s specific.

I’ll make individual exceptions where they’re warranted, but I’m not going to brook any general argument: If we head back, half a year after our supposed Great Awakening, to the habits that helped drive us into the swamp in the first place, we are a nation of what?


To save time in helping us reach agreement on this point, let me ridicule dissenting arguments in advance.

“SUVs are safer in a crash.”

Not always true and not always relevant. Not crashing at all is safest, and since big, clumsy vehicles take longer to stop and are less nimble than ordinary cars, they can’t avoid disaster as well. Of course this assumes drivers are paying attention and have been trained to avoid accidents, which is a fantasy. But it’s a generally accepted one, so let’s run with it.

Additionally, SUVs have different kinds of accidents—rollovers, for instance, are more common than in ordinary cars. Overall, they’re no safer, and some studies show they’re less so.

“I have kids. I need the space.”

Need is often in the eye of the beholder. I raised two children, and transported them for six years, in a ‘79 Corolla two-door. At about that same time, a friend told me he had to sell his Isuzu Rodeo and get an even larger vehicle because, “We’re having a baby.”

Naah. Nothing says you have to take everything your precious snowflake owns when you go to grandma’s for an afternoon.

“If I can afford it, it’s my business.”

Aw, come on. Even Republicans don’t believe this anymore. Those clichés about “using more than our share” and “stealing from our children” became clichés because they’re true.

“But we’re Americans. We deserve it.”

This one—call it the Cheney Gambit—gets my vote for Lamest of All. The widespread (but apparently diminishing) notion that God has selected us among all peoples to use five times our share of his gifts, and to bear no responsibility for either their stewardship or for those we deprive, simply doesn’t fit with any version of patriotism or Christianity with which I can get comfortable. It’s nice the folks in Arlington have steady work, but if we’re not looking far beyond that, we’re going to remain right where we are, spinning our wheels and wondering why we can’t get traction.