Let’s kick off this article with a Shakespearean word hug. Language so perfect in its construction and application that the pantheon of gods gives a standing O when it’s read or spoken. I just make the O face.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
-Macbeth, Act V, Scene V, Lines 19-28
Shakespeare digs deep with this sublime illustration of poetic nihilism. Easily one of the most quoted soliloquies in literature, Macbeth has reached the brink of the abyss, haunted, teetering on the edge of madness. Time and existence have all been reduced to nothing. Life is a grand illusion, a tale told by an idiot.
Tough word, idiot. When our daughters were little, their two worst “swear words” were “stupid” and “idiot.” Uttering those words was anathema that resulted in them sucking in their breath and chastising me with a horrified, “Daddy!”
It was adorable to our friends and my parents that the girls, particularly as toddlers, had no problem with words like “cunt” or “fuck.” Brings a tear to my eye recalling their delightfully precocious little cherub voices. Angels from heaven.
Meh. They turned out OK. Maybe a little vulgar, but hell, it’s only words. We all know it is someone else’s problem if they allow simple little words to really bother or offend them. [he said provocatively]
All joking aside, words have power. Words can wound. They require a sensitivity in application that my daughters understood at a young age. Using words like “idiot” or “stupid” or – god forbid – “retard” is cruel, judgmental, and irresponsible. They are words that seek to lessen others or suggest inferiority due to some form of intelligence deficit.
So, let us use “idiot” as a literary construct. That way we can work this discussion from a common language, without having to revisit the ugliness of implied offense or superiority. It is also synonymous with “fool” for this discussion.
Since the beginning of recorded history, idiots and fools have been used as an archetype. Although dull of wit, many supposed idiots in literature provide wise insights and revelatory truths that contradict their real or supposed mental or societal deficiencies.
Shakespeare made use of these fools precisely to allow his audience deeper understanding of surrounding character flaws and shortcomings…even madness.
- Feste in Twelfth Night delivers some of the most intelligent and witty vivisection of other more foolish preeminent characters, warning Lady Olivia, “the cowl does not make a monk.” ie don’t judge a book by its cover.
- Touchstone in As You Like It personifies practical cynicism. He is bawdy and vulgar, constructed to judiciously deconstruct the courtly conventions of love and its adherent mythologies for great comedic effect.
- The Fool in King Lear is my favorite. Intentionally unnamed, the Fool functions as Lear’s conscience. Where the king is foolish and unwise, The Fool is ironically his alter ego. In his final moments of clarity, Lear comprehends the magnitude of his unwise decisions. The fool’s purpose fulfilled; he dies.
Modern literature is also rife with examples:
- Lennie Smalls in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men
- Benjy Compson in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (great nod to Macbeth)
- Boo Radley in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Charlie Gordon in Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon.
- Forrest Gump in Winston Groom’s novel (or better yet Robert Zemeckis’s movie Forrest Gump).
Forrest Gump, for me, is the best modern example of an idiot who has something to say, something that means something. His words are Hemingway simple yet so poignant. His hyperbolic life story of perseverance, acceptance, and love makes us examine ourselves more deeply. Through the eyes of this simple man, we see ourselves and our own unrealized potential. We are inspired.
In the context of these last few months of quarantine and social distancing from Covid-19, you cannot help but observe the evolution of real-life idiots, the Covidiots.
Sadly, these people are not wise. Covidiots are not acting dumb. They are choosing dumb. We do not learn more about ourselves from their foolish behaviors, other than how not to behave. Our world is not bettered by them, in fact, it’s made far riskier. They are the weak link in the chain of our existence. The faulty bulb in your mortal string of Christmas tree lights.
Let’s ensure we have the characteristics of a Covidiot clearly outlined. They are selfish. They lean Socially Darwinistic. They are impatient and impulsive. They do not follow science, favoring institutional religion (or the words of President Cheeto Christ). They defy data, fact, and basic safety rules to expedite emerging from quarantine.
Forrest Gump had some timeless quotes. Perhaps exploring a few of them might help clarify the problem Covidiots present us with today? I think yes. Shall we?
“Stupid is as stupid does.”
I don’t care what your political beliefs are about this US president. Donald Trump is the Chairman of the Covidiot Board. Narcissism and thin-skinned personality aside, he has been nothing short of stupid, reckless, and dangerous in his recent handling of Covid-19. His micropenis ego refuses to allow him to lead by example. He is the Anti-Leader.
Stupidity is his choice because the political calculus of intelligence would deprive him a reelection. He will not wear a mask, he does not socially distance, he does not follow the guidance of top scientists. Thank god Trump’s recent Tulsa campaign speech was so grossly underattended. At least he will directly kill less people with his insatiable need for attention and relentless fourth-grade blather. Why? He is self-serving. His reelection obsessions supersede the good of all.
He does not care about anyone above himself, still failing to acknowledge that the current 126,000+ US Covid deaths are mind-blowingly horrific compared to the rest of the world, still rationalizing it could have been worse. Wow. So tone deaf. Like “All Lives Matter” tone deaf. Quintessential political expediency.
Quoting Shakespeare from Julius Caesar, “What a terrible era in which idiots govern the blind.”
Maybe some of us are blind to the anti-mask-pandering, sycophant governors (Cheetophytes) in Arizona (Ducey), Texas (Abbott), and Florida (DeSantis) whose states are reigniting Round II of this heavyweight Deathbout with coronavirus. If this is so, then the rest of us are somnambulists, sleep walking through our lives, brave in our dreams but not in our deeds. Time to wake the hell up and do something at the polls, my friends. These guys don’t have an expiration date until 2022, but you can certainly clog them up with voting in wiser contrarians to their State Assemblies.
“I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But I, I think maybe it’s both.”
This is part of the ironic Trump network effect on the MAGA mob. Operating without a plan, unencumbered by strategy, reacting based on feeling vs fact, the Covidiots follow the word fiddle of their fearless leader out of their homes while Rome burns.
They set down their bibles on their davenports, bored with safely praying to their god in isolation, and migrate en masse to church following the clarion call of destiny. Trump, a faithless mongrel himself, said it is okay to closely assemble for long periods of time without masks. And he said god wants – nay, requires – hordes of potentially sick people to risk their lives to adore her. It is their First Amendment right, darn it.
A diabolical calculation has also been made by Covidiots. Their freedom to gather and worship is worth risking the life of the infirm, elderly, or vulnerable. The weak are expendable. I seriously cannot think of anything more Christlike. Hopefully I am not misquoting Jesus, I think from the gnostic Book of Reg, Reg 661:666, where he says,
“Yay unto thee I say abandon the weak. Feed them not, lest ye go hungry. For thou hast toiled for the fruit of thine labors, and thine toils are thine and thouest’s alone. Share not thine fruit. Horde instead like Egyptian toilet papyrus. Also, thou must gather in great throngs, from sea to shining sea, casting asunder the poor and aged, to visibly show thine neighbors thou art true to me, and thine family is more true to me than their family, yada yada yada; and, thusly, verily thou rejects the ugliness of the poor and grossness of the infirm. Maranatha.”
“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
You know when you are wiping your ass with cheap toilet paper – now that you can finally find some after Covidiots have reached apparent satiety – and your finger goes through the paltry paper, giving you a stinky fingernail of shit, and of course, you sniff it, because, well, just because? That smell is the taste of that random piece of surprise, shitty chocolate in this plague-infested box of life. Covidiots are the puke that follows consuming that rancid pink goo in the middle of the defective chocolate.
Let’s unpack that metaphor. No one ever thought we would live through a real plague in our lifetime. That is so freaking Old Testament. But now that we are managing through it, and we know what it takes to stay safe, who would have ever thought we were so selfish? That a few months of isolation and boredom could reveal our inner asshole so vividly? That we ate that skank chocolate and puked out Covidiots?
This is not about the absolute rock star heroes who necessarily ventured out into the unknown and continued working while we hid at home. No. That was necessity. This is about the unconscionable losers who attended massive pool parties in Missouri, packed bars in college towns, flocked to the beaches like they had never witnessed water. For what? Some distorted sense of entitled liberty. And of course, emulating the Orange Cheeto, no masks, no social distancing, no concern for others.
Actions have consequences, and I can only pray that the people the Covidiots infect with Covid-19 this time around get to the ICU beds before they do. That would be the most just form of Social Darwinism possible.
Deep, cleansing breaths. Ahhh.
Fools and idiots, as literary tropes, help us grow. They opine wisdom where it is absent in title characters. They warn us of behaving as our lesser selves. They add clarity where only ambiguity stands apparent.
Morons and Covidiots, as real people, are dangerous. They shun wisdom when others try their best. They embody our lesser selves. They live for their emotional self, illogical and senseless in their decisions.
Will we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic a better society? Is it so wrong to doubt it? Society is really an illusion, a false construct to control the mob with bread and circuses. The relevant, controllable question is will we emerge as better individuals following the plague? Can we try to put the needs of others above our own selfish desires?
It scares me. What have we learned about ourselves in the last five months of pandemic? How are we using what we have learned to develop personally, and in turn, come together in shared caring and empathy to improve the world for others?
I recently heard, “There may be no ‘I’ in Team, but there is one in Covid. Put a mask on your faces, you fucking morons.” Could not agree more.
To conclude, in the inimitable words of Mr. Forrest Gump,
“That’s all I have to say about that.”
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Still struggling with visualizing a Covidiot? When finished commenting and exploring the other hysterical pieces on this website, check this clip out, the first 1:10 will blow your mind….