Snake Oil

Trigger Alert!  What you are about to read may cause anger and confusion. Do not kill the messenger.

Donald Trump has claimed repeatedly that America is no longer “Great.”

He has based his whole campaign on that slogan.

He is absolutely right.

Not in the way he thinks, of course.  Donald Trump wouldn’t know greatness if it bit him on the ass.

For Trump, greatness is all about winning.  “We never win any more,” he says.  For Trump and a large number of his followers winning is everything.  We need to “win” more wars.  We need to “win” more negotiations with other countries.  That concept of “winning” turns everything into a game where the outcome is determined by the “greatest” competitor – and that should be us.  Because… well… USA, USA…  Oh, and the national anthem.  Don’t forget the national anthem.

He has also claimed that only he can solve our problems and Make America Great Again.

Great America is a theme park, not a nation.

He doesn’t have a clue where to begin.  He doesn’t have a clue because he doesn’t understand either the issues or what’s at stake.  He is basically a political ignoramus that saw an opportunity for self-aggrandizement and took it, selling snake-oil to the townspeople along the way.

And there is no denying that he is an excellent snake-oil salesman.  Snake-oil is flying off the shelves.  But that won’t make America “great” again.  It’s why American greatness is slipping away.

American greatness is slipping away because twenty five percent of America’s population still believes that the sun circles the earth. (1)

Twenty five.


One quarter of the people in this country believe something that Copernicus disproved nearly 600 years ago.

Care to guess how many people have never heard of Copernicus.

For those of you out there who need help with this; imagine that it’s a cool fall day and you are tired of tweaking your fantasy football team, so you get together a poker game to hold you over until the Seahawks (substitute your current obsession) play that night on your all-games-all-the-time network.  So you get your three best buds together and deal out some five card stud.  Take a close look at your friends.  One of you doesn’t know that the earth goes around the sun.

In America.

In 2016.

That’s why America’s greatness is dwindling.

Twenty five percent of all high school biology teachers in America believe that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time.


Biology teachers!

Noah put two of each of those behemoths on the ark – dinosaurs, not biology teachers.  At the creation museum in Kentucky they have Triceratops with saddles!

This is why America is no longer the country it once was.

The number of high school students who read nothing unless it is required at school doubled between 1984 and 2004.  Any idea where it is now?

This is why we have slipped to fourteenth in “cognitive skills and educational attainment” in the world.  (2)

This is why we are a slowly dwindling world power.

The city of Woodland, North Carolina, rejected a solar farm and put a moratorium on all solar construction in part because they feared it could “suck up all the sunlight.” (3)

This is not American exceptionalism.

This is American ignorance.

This is American stupidity.

This is what we have allowed ourselves to become.

This is why we now rank 2nd in ignorance out of the top 14 countries in the world.  Only Italy has a more ignorant population. (4)

In 2014 we ranked 46th in freedom of the press, a decline of 13 spots in one year, the largest in the world.  At least we are good at declining.  (5)

We rank 46th.

The country that supposedly invented freedom of the press and enshrined it at the top of our list of constitutional amendments now ranks 46th in the world.

Think about that for a minute if you can spare some time from Duck Dynasty.

The only things America currently ranks first in is prisons and having the most super rich. (6)

So, Donald Trump’s solution to all of this: eliminate the Department of Education.  Put a half million teachers out of work.

Snake-oil.  It’s good for what ails ya.

It cures every ill known to man.  Got a poverty problem?  This magic elixir will cut taxes to the rich and the poor will disappear.  Got a race problem?  This miracle drug will make those people of color invisible so that you never have to worry about them again.   Do you have an immigration problem?  Sprinkle some of this powerful liquid on the ground and a wall will spring forth faster than a beanstalk so you can pitch the ones on your side over and keep the ones on the other side out.  Got a war that’s gone on too long?  Donald Drumph’s Magical Mystery Potion will fire some generals, seize some oil, and the enemy will evaporate.

Donald Drumph’s Magical Mystery Potion will put fire in your belly, excitement back in your marriage, cure your toenail fungus, and best of all, it tastes just like Kool Aide.

And Americans are drinking it in massive quantities.

After the so-called “Commander in Chief Forum” the other night, Megan Kelly, a top Fox News personality was interviewing Jon Soltz, an army vet and chairman of a group called   Mr. Soltz was talking about Kurds, Sunnis, and Shias and Trump’s idea of taking the oil in Iraq. Kelly interrupted him with, “Give us the third grade explanation.” (7)

Third grade explanation.

Third grade.

That’s the level at which a major (so-called) news outlet is asking guests to engage the public.

According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 68% of public school children in the U.S. do not read proficiently by the time they finish third grade. (8)

So let’s discuss the “Commander in Chief Forum” at THAT level.

In the state of Texas forty percent of Trump supporters believe the election will be stolen by ACORN for Hillary Clinton. (9)

Forty percent.

And another twenty percent are unsure whether ACORN will steal the election or not.

Sixty percent of Trump supporters clearly don’t understand that ACORN hasn’t existed for six years.


“I love the poorly educated,” says Trump. (10)

Is it any wonder then that he is supported by fifty five percent of whites with only a high school diploma or less? (11)

Donald Trump, the man who once tackled Vince McMahon outside the ring at Wrestlemania XXIII and then shaved Vince’s head on a bet, is a consummate bullshit artist and showman whose knowledge of the real world is limited by his wealth, upbringing, and education, yet he claims to know more about ISIS than our own military leadership.

Ladies and gentlemen, gather ‘round.  I have here the most amazing magical elixir ever formulated.  Just one sip can turn a reality show host with zero political credentials into an expert on the intricacies of Middle Eastern religion, history, and geo-political solutions.

“There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture.  It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility,” according to Ray Williams in Psychology Today a few years ago.  (12)

It is more than disturbing.

“Journalist Charles Pierce, author of Idiot America, adds another perspective:

“The rise of idiot America today represents–for profit mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power–the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they are talking about. In the new media age, everybody is an expert.” (13)

America can never be great when the least trusted people are the ones who actually know best.  And when the ones trusted most know the least.

You can drink that snake-oil until you puke on the bar, but the republic cannot survive on it for long.

Thomas Jefferson said it a long time ago, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

It is unsettling to have to admit, as a nation, that we have allowed profit and political interests to undermine our standing in the world by systematically and knowingly creating a population of those “poorly educated” that people like Donald Trump depend on.

It is more unsettling to realize that we might be one of those who have allowed ourselves to become less educated than we might be.

But it is crucial for the survival of the republic that we not only recognize it, but that we do something about it.

America is not floundering because we make poor trade deals or because our leaders are stupid.  America is not in existential danger from immigrants or terrorists or Muslims.

America is in danger because we are losing the ability to distinguish truth from hype, fact from opinion, and religion from law.

America is in danger because we have allowed some to lead us away from education and knowledge for their own profit and power.

Samuel Adams said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

In the end, it isn’t our guns that will save us from collapse.  It will be the knowledge we manage to keep alive while powerful forces in our society try to take it from us.

Your Humble Servant,

Roger A. Shipley, The Willowbrook Curmudgeon.


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8 thoughts on “Snake Oil

  1. Pingback: Snake Oil | oldgymrat71

  2. Roger thanks for taking it easy on us. It is actually worse than you described. Even those enlighten ones with college educations seem to have taken stupid pills. Perhaps all the bottled water we have been drinking was bottled in Flint.


    • I was working with two educated, seemingly reasonable women today, sorting books for our library’s annual book sale. One of them had retired from teaching. Yet both of them deny the science of climate change. So maybe it is in the water. Hey, conspiracy theorists warned us in the 50s and 60s that fluoridating the water was a government plot, so maybe they were onto something!


      • Actually, I have been thinking about the water. It’s not fluoride, but there are enough pharmaceuticals in the drinking water that could actually be part of what is going on – antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones to name a few. No one seems to know what this drug cocktail is capable of. Maybe we could start a new conspiracy theory.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I had a very smart uncle, Samuel Keith Morris, who ran Fort Campbell, Ky for decades along with whoever was commanding general, he changed several times during Sam’s tenure there. He and the commanding general ran things and Sam was the highest ranking civilian and was on par with the general. Sam was highly educated and quite intelligent. he was a proud FDR American. He was a card-carrying Southern Baptist all his life and didn’t think the Constitution was referring to any religions other than Christianity. I tell you all this to point out there are some places so frozen in our brains that education and intelligence have no sway. Early conditioning, trauma, self-interest whatever renders those areas of our brains frozen and unavailable for useful work for all time.

        Liked by 1 person

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