When I was in high school, the drama group traveled to Louisville to see a series of plays (my first experience of Sheridan's Rivals!). As we walked to the theater, a gentleman was handing out some kind of document. It was typed, single-spaced, with no margins. It appeared to describe some elaborate scheme or conspiracy, and the text was littered with biblical notations. It was the first, but not the last, such text I ever encountered, and I scanned it with mild interest before discarding it.
Back in the day, people who had, in Jonathan Swift's words, given their wits an unlucky shake were to be found on street corners, shouting or distributing their dense texts. Today, of course, we have the Internet. And we have more; we have sites willing to give such people a platform.
Item: National Review Online gave space to a woman* who argued that the problem at the school in Newtown was that it had women on the staff. A male teacher, or even a couple of husky twelve-year-olds could have stopped a deranged man firing a semiautomatic assault rifle with a clip of thirty bullets. Happily, several readers pointed out glaring factual errors in her remarks and berated her for stupidity and insensitivity.
Item: Orly Taitz, whose fantasies about the foreign birth of Barack Obama have been slapped down by an assortment of judges, is now arguing that President Obama had Adam Lanza set up to do the Newtown killings so he could ban all guns and assume absolute power.
Item: A similar delirium is being vended by a woman, who like the National Review author identifies as a Christian conservative. She smelled "something fishy" about Newtown from the very start.
If I did not already know so many churchgoers who are patently sane, I might begin to suspect that Christianity should be included in the DSM.**
It would require a man of H.L. Mencken's appetites for cranks, charlatans, and wowsers to appreciate the abundance thrust before us in these days of the Republic. But for me, as with the well-meaning crank on the Louisville street, they are only fitfully amusing.
*No, I am not going to link to this twaddle. You can find it for yourselves.
**That, for the lay reader, is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun