Generally speaking, I agree with the premise that we shouldn't tell toddlers that someone is crazy. Or stupid, for that matter. Tolerance is a virtue.
But sometimes, as they say, if the shoe fits...
I carved out my first exception to the basic rule as soon as the Grape became both verbal and aware of strangers: I feel no shame in telling him, when he sees someone smoking, that it's stupid.
Thanks to my remarkable luck yesterday (I hopped on the treadmill just in time for a recent re-run of The Colbert Report), I found another group I see no harm in labeling crazy and stupid - even if little kids might be listening:
People who shell out anywhere between $10,000 to $50,000 per person for a six to twelve month stay in one of these goofy doomsday bunkers some salty California real estate developer is building - in lovely places like the outskirts of Omaha and the middle of the Mojave Desert.
When Colbert first showed the bunkers, I thought it was a made up story. Not so. Media outlets from NPR to ABCNews to Forbes magazine have covered the shelters in recent months.
People have been predicting the end of the Earth for thousands and thousands of years. Nothing newsworthy there. And every society has its share of religious yahoos willing to seize upon their erstwhile "prophet's" end of times edicts. We've always had weekend warriors among us - those usually bearded, badly dressed men who stockpile canned goods and ammunition in the event of a global meltdown.
But never before have the most paranoid and narcissistic among us had the opportunity to throw away so much money on their special brand of insanity.
While I haven't seen the company's registration and payment procedures, I'm going to march out on a limb and wager that the bunker developer gets his cash upfront. After all, one of the oft-cited doomsday scenarios is a complete collapse of the financial system, an apocalyptic event that will render the dollar worthless.
I imagine the developer will want to spend his bucks before that happens. He may be creepy, but he's clearly not a total dumb ass.
A few other questions crossed my mind as Colbert went to commercial.
Assuming the world ends with inferno, earthquake, flood and whatnot, how are these chumps who plunked down their life savings supposed to get to the bunker? Won't the end of the world cause air travel delays? Or hazardous road conditions?
And assuming you're willing to plunk down $150,000 to save your family of four, do you feel obligated to spring for less well-off extended family members as well? Is it alright to put your in-laws in the Spartan "economy class" bunkers for a paltry $10,000 a nose?
Another interesting nugget: The company aggressively markets its bunkers to members of the fundamentalist Christian movement.
How can people who claim to look forward to the end of the world, so that they can be with Jesus while drinking non-alcoholic punch and watching the rest of us roast on spits, be so afraid of that same end of the world that they're willing to spend a small fortune to hide from the second coming in a subterranean vault in the middle of nowhere?
My church going lapsed some twenty-five years ago, but I'm still pretty sure it would be more Christian to give your hundreds of thousands of dollars to the poor, sick and helpless (Somalian babies, anyone?) than to spend it cowering in a concrete bunker. Self-described "Christians" with no sense of charity have always made my blood boil. The doomsday bunker buyers just kick my contempt up a level.
I see no reason to hide that contempt from my kid. Thankfully, he's too young to know about the apocalypse crowd. But if and when he does ask, I'll tell him exactly what I think about them: They're selfish, sanctimonious, idiotic, and often hypocritical, twits.
And no, I don't think it's bad parenting to say so.