Oh my gosh, did you hear about that beauty queen?

By By Nicholas Pappas

By Nicholas Pappas

My columns have been too serious lately. They lack verve. America doesn’t want to talk about politics, or history, or the lives of miners. America wants to be cruel. Like all great nations on the verge of collapse, it wants to put its gladiators in a stadium and cheer for blood.

America needs trivial distraction.

It didn’t start with American Idol, a show focused on public humiliation (though the William Hungs of the United States brought rubbernecking to a forefront). Humiliating voyeurism has always been around. We have a deep need to look at others and laugh. It makes us feel better about ourselves.

Take last week’s big news. While Dick Cheney continued his inhumanity behind the curtain and Alberto Gonzales slipped through a crack, more than 4 million people tuned to YouTube and watched a beauty queen from South Carolina fumble.

She was in the final round — the moment when a judge asks a question. That question? “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the United States on a map. Why do you think this is?” The answer? Take a deep breath:

“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and that I believe our education, such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future.”

Now, sit in silence for about 30 seconds and think about that.

What?

I could write a 15-page thesis paper on what’s wrong with this answer. What are “U.S. Americans?” Does she want us to know she means “the” Iraq, not just “an” Iraq?

And what is with this lack of maps? Where did all the cartographers go? Were the maps stolen by al-Qaida? If we can’t locate the United States on a map, the terrorists win.

I think we’re all missing the point. This poor girl might not be the brightest sweater on the clothesline, but I forgive her. It was a stressful moment. Hell, she could run for president, give the same speech, and get elected — twice.

What I won’t forgive is the context of the question. While we laugh and call this girl an idiot, every fifth person laughing can’t find the United States on a map! Does anyone else see the irony? For the hypocrites who need help, it’s the big one with a cloud of pollution floating above it — right below the bigger one with socialized medicine.

She took third, in case you were wondering. Her other “assets” helped her score. Intelligence has little to do with winning in this country.

In this very paper last week, Brian Johnson was quoted as saying the last book he read was The Great Gatsby in 9th grade. He was most likely joking. I couldn’t care less. As long as he throws more than 3,000 yards, his last book could have been The Pokey Little Puppy. He’s not a rocket scientist; he has a rocket arm.

A flighty beauty queen and a dopey quarterback aren’t news. They’re the norm. These are people who have spent their lives on pedestals for more important attributes. We’re the ones who put them there.

I’m not above it. I’m a hypocrite myself. This entire article is about me making fun of people. This is a capitalist nation. The poor want to feed off the misfortunes of the rich. The rich want to steal all the maps from the poor.

We need new priorities. Who cares if 1 in 5 people can’t find America? As far as I can tell, the Promised Land has been missing for a long time.

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