Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The March of the Dumb

I want to take a moment to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the historic “March of the Dumb.”

It was 1928. People who couldn’t speak were getting fed up with always being referred to as dumb by those who could speak. So they got organized.

They held a convention.  The first order of business for the delegates was to adopt an official, universal method of non-verbally expressing their outrage over being called dumb. And this, my friends, is how giving the finger was born.

Then they decided to have a big march. So thousands of them gathered in Washington and descended upon the Capitol, carrying signs that said stuff like I’M NOT DUMB and IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE. This was probably the best political march and rally of all time because no one had to sit through a bunch of boring speeches. Instead, when they reached their destination, all the marchers turned toward the Capitol and, in unison, they gave the finger. I really wish I would have been there. Can you imagine how politically empowering that must have felt?

But the organizers of the march soon became discouraged. Everybody still kept calling them dumb. The media dubbed their march The March of the Dumb. Of course, in hindsight, it’s easy to see that it was unrealistic to expect any single action to bring about such a major cultural change. In every civilized, orderly human society, there has to be some group of people that the majority considers to be dumb. So an uprising of the dumb was seen as the beginning of the slippery slope into anarchy.

So the organizers devised yet another innovative political tactic. They formed the first “Mothers Against” group. They figured that if you call your organization Mothers Against whatever, you can morally intimidate your opponent into submission because nobody wants to be seen as against mothers against. It doesn’t matter what the mothers are against. So they formed Mothers Against Calling People Who Can’t Speak Dumb aka MACPWCSD.

But everybody still kept calling them dumb. Nobody took MACPWCSD seriously. Again, when viewed through the lens of history, we can clearly see that the flaw was not in the idea but in the execution. We now know that for a political acronym to have traction it has to spell an actual word or at least be rhythmic like NAACP. Otherwise all you have is a bunch of Roman numerals. It can’t just be Mothers Against any old thing. It has to be Mothers Against something that spells something, like against pornography or nitroglycerin or yodeling or serial killers. And it has to be a word with a positive or at least neutral connotation. You’ll never get much sympathy with, say, Mothers Against Ovens.

At any rate, this story has a happy ending. We don’t call people who can’t verbalize dumb anymore. And society at large owes the leaders of this liberation movement a huge debt of gratitude. Because remember, they invented giving the finger.