At some time or another, we’re all guilty of it, right? But, boy, when someone else is stupid it’s either funny or – the result I find most interesting – infuriating.
I was watching the Cowboys vs Redskins game Monday night and I was on the verge of blowing a gasket as Cowboys centre Phil Costa repeatedly snapped the ball when quarterback Tony Romo wasn’t ready – and it was usually off-target.
Grainne asked me, after the fourth surprise snap, “Why does he keep doing that?”
Flabbergasted, all I could say was “because he’s a frickin’ idiot!”
What, he just can’t remember the number? After the third bad snap, he can’t think to glance back and at least be sure where his quarterback is standing?
I watched as a flustered Romo berated Costa. It reminded me of the times I’ve done that to some of my receivers in flag football whom had run the wrong pattern. And then I recognized the look on Costa’s face; the look of hurt and embarrassment and . . . that other look.
He wasn’t stupid. He just didn’t know.
For whatever reasons, perhaps changes in Romo’s cadence, perhaps some distraction tactics by the defensive line, or too long verbal lulls by Romo as he checked the defense, Costa was confused. In my frustration at my ’Boys flirting with another heartbreaking loss, I called Costa (among other things) stupid but I doubt he is. I just needed an excuse, a scapegoat.
It made me think of my late father. To listen to him, he was the smartest man in the world. “Doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief,” us kids called him (behind his back, of course – and it was funny because he actually was a Chief). He was never wrong and, when anything did go wrong, it was never his fault.
Despite the fact that he only reached Grade 6, he professed to know everything. If we ever corrected him or made a mistake, he would get angry and tell us we were stupid.
Unfortunately, although not to the same cruel extent, I have inherited that from him. When people make “stupid” mistakes, it riles me up. But, unlike my dad, I don’t look at myself as perfect – quite the contrary.
No, I save my worst insults for myself. I hate messing up, forgetting things – the times I’ve called myself an idiot and worse is countless, and it’s usually for the smallest things. I hate stupidity in others and in me as much as he did.
I was in a course a few years back and the instructor noted that of all the inner discussions we have with ourselves, about 70-80 per cent of them are negative. It was striking when he said it but I could see in everyone else’s face that it had registered as true.
Why do we beat ourselves up?
I think religions play a big part as they make rules that are hard to follow and constantly remind us of our failings (wait a minute: Jesus preemptively paid for my sins?). Institutions and society also set ridiculous standards, brainwashing us into believing that being a waitress is not a worthy occupation and that anything bigger than a size 4 is a cow.
So it just makes sense that, rather than rip on ourselves 100 per cent of the time, we like to give ourselves a break by ripping on others. And, for many, not only does it give them a break from their inner criticism; it has the bonus of making them feel better about themselves.
Some people are more educated than others. Some people are smarter than others (there is a difference). But few people are truly stupid.
Are babies stupid? Isolated cultures? Someone who didn’t graduate from high school? Or me, because I haven’t fixed a darn thing around the house ever? No.
Some things, we just don’t know; some things we don’t care to know.
Other times, we just make mistakes. And therein lies the poetry of it all: our “stupid” mistakes actually make us smarter.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “I found 100 ways to do it wrong.”
Haven’t we all. Haven’t we all.
~Written by Rudy Kelly