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Watch Out: Stupidity Seems To Be Catching

Sun., May 25, 1997

Stupidity flourishes in every garden of human endeavor.

It blooms in such variegated shades of pink embarrassment and purple rage that a sudden blossoming in a new place still generates wonder and amazement.

Stupidity? Here? Can it be?

The answer, it seems, always is yes.

Stupidity R us.

Still, the stupid story of Melissa Raglin deserves a cake.

Melissa, catcher on her mostly boy youth baseball team in Florida, was discovered last week to be in violation of a rule that all youth baseball players in Florida must wear a jockstrap and cup to protect their private parts.

Only Melissa didn’t have the same private parts to protect as her boy teammates.

Because of this anatomical reality, she didn’t have the cup. Never has owned one. Barring sex-change surgery, she likely never will need one.

An umpire in her Florida youth sports organziation decided, however, that 12-year-old Melissa was in violation of the rules.

Umpires are there to enforce the rules. Therefore, Melissa couldn’t play catcher until she got a cup.

In Spokane, the office manager for the Spokane Youth Sports Association was puzzled and amazed.

“We have 1,000 girls playing softball, and we’ve never had a single one wear something like that,” Sherrie Mellon said. “We even have 30 girls playing baseball. It’s never come up.”

Why is it that stupid thoughts, actions and pronouncements come up?

Hundreds of umpires and thousands of girls could have thought up the stupid idea of requiring male protective gear to be worn by female sports stars.

The evolution of stupidity needs to be better understood.

In the case of Melissa Raglin, the stupidity came right out of the rule book.

Some people live by the rule book and forget common sense. If it’s in the book, that’s the way it’s always done without thought or exception. And we’re not even going to get into the Bible.

Think about the prison systems in many states filled with low-level drug offenders. Legislative rules say we have no choice. The result is we spend the same money sending nonviolent drug offenders to jail as we would spend to send them to Harvard.

Or, stupid acts may result from extensions of rules that just don’t apply but are stretched to fit, anyway.

For example, the argument could be now made that if a boy comes forward and says he doesn’t want to wear a protective device because Melissa didn’t have to, he shouldn’t have to.

A stupid analogy has sprung from a serious thought.

The fact is, there is a difference between boys and girls. The difference makes, well, all the difference.

Another example? How about the Colville Indians deciding they don’t want nearby Colville High School to be called the Indians.

No doubt the Colvilles have suffered undo hardship at the hands of stupid rules put forth by white people in the past.

But have the Colville High School sports teams heaped abuse on the Colville Indians?

No. High school teams named Braves, Indians and Chiefs aren’t the same as the U.S. Cavalry at Wounded Knee. It’s the difference that matters.

Pointing out the obvious is a third common way to nurture stupidity.

Think of the debate about English-only.

Of course, English is the language of America.

Duh. We all know this.

When the Kootenai County commissioners voted to make sure everyone around Coeur d’Alene knows that English is the language of choice, it was a stupid vote to point out the obvious.

Everyone in Coeur d’Alene already knew. More significantly, people who don’t speak English around this country knew, too.

Only this week a Census Bureau analysis showed non-English speaking immigrants who learn to speak English earn twice as much money as immigrants who don’t learn English well.

Immigrants may not be rocket scientists or county commissioners, but they know that speaking English is what they must do to get ahead.

Most stupid ideas and actions spring from reasonable people or extend from reasonable positions. Then someone forgets that the block on the top of our spines is for more than separating the ears.

The vaccine for stupidity is simply to stop and think.

If you draw a blank, ask a question. In English - and wearing a cup if you must.

, DataTimes MEMO: Chris Peck is the editor of The Spokesman-Review. His column appears each Sunday on Perspective.

Chris Peck is the editor of The Spokesman-Review. His column appears each Sunday on Perspective.

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