9/11 brought an upsurge in yahooism

July 24, 2005|By Leonard Pitts Jr.

WASHINGTON - It is probably not a good idea in terms of job security to publicly call your boss a horse's ass. So have some sympathy for Will Adams, spokesman for Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo. He was asked by reporters to explain the asinine thing the congressman said recently. Mr. Adams told them Mr. Tancredo is just a "free thinker."

By which standard Michael Jackson is just a tad eccentric.

Or haven't you heard? Mr. Tancredo thinks maybe the United States should bomb Mecca.

You know Mecca. City in Saudi Arabia. Birthplace of the prophet Mohammed. Holiest shrine of Islam, a religion practiced by one of every six people on Earth. That's the place a U.S. congressman thinks maybe we should lob some ordnance at.

Mr. Tancredo made this contribution to the national dialogue during a talk show on WFLA, a TV station in Orlando, Fla. Host Pat Campbell had asked how we should respond if U.S. cities are ever struck by terrorists using nuclear devices. "Well," said Mr. Tancredo, "what if you said something like, if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites."

"You're talking about bombing Mecca," said Mr. Campbell.

"Yeah," said Mr. Tancredo.

Predictably, Mr. Tancredo's suggestion has been a little controversial. That is, if you can call statements of condemnation stretching from Moscow to the State Department to Ankara, Turkey, "a little controversial."

Mr. Tancredo has refused to apologize, but he did issue a written "clarification," which said in part, "I do not advocate this. Much more thought would need to be given to the potential ramifications of such a horrific response."

Actually, you don't need to give any thought to the ramifications of such an action, because they should be self-evident to anyone smarter than the average hamster. We would become an international pariah. Muslims would hate us with renewed fervor, and Osama bin Laden would thank us for writing his recruitment material.

In other words, the same situation we have now, except worse. Much, much, much, much, worse.

And I wonder: Am I the only one who feels that lately - lately being defined as, since September 2001 - the nation seems overrun by yahoos?

Granted, the presence of yahoos in daily life is not a new torment. They have always been among us, the simplemindedness of their thinking exceeded only by the volume at which they express it. Think Cliff Clavin, the cogs of his brain lubricated by generous applications of beer, holding forth from his stool at the end of the bar. Of course, the only thing you had to do to avoid Cliff was to stay out of Cheers.

But the 9/11 attacks have unleashed yahooism on an unprecedented scale. Cliffy is no longer confined to his barstool. Under the name Mona Charen, he once wrote a newspaper column advocating the expulsion of Muslims from America. Under the name Rush Limbaugh, he has a radio talk show on which he compared the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib to a fraternity prank. Under the name Ann Coulter, he calls for the racial profiling of travelers from the Middle East. And under the name Tom Tancredo, he is apparently a member of Congress.

What he doesn't get - what yahoos usually don't get - is that things that seem to make sense while you're hoisting a few rarely hold up in the sober light of day.

Mr. Tancredo has cast his refusal to apologize as a blow against political correctness. Which is silly. One can be plain-spoken without being reckless, blunt without being stupid, straight-forward without sounding like a fool.

Assuming, that is, you have something worthwhile to say.

Mr. Tancredo evidently does not. Somebody tell him his beer is getting warm.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His column appears Sundays in The Sun.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.