Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sometimes fundamentalists are funny (or sad)

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.


  1. I think you are well within your rights as a parent to share with your child your observations. However, I stay away from words that I find demeaning or offensive and try to pick accurate reflections. While smoking may be "stupid", I don't think that word is helpful in conveying the problem with smoking so I say, "Smoking is unhealthy and not good for the body. We don't smoke."

    I also do not like the words "fat" or "idiot". So, instead, I will say, "that person is overweight (or obese) and that is not healthy".

    I am not trying to be sanctimonious but I do want to raise my children to be respectful and learn that they can call things out for what they are without having to resort to using offensive words.

  2. Speaking as a fat chick and former smoker (there is cause and effect in play) I don't mind the words fat or stupid in that context. But the word "obese" makes me want to hit people. Fat chicks can be just as healthy as skinny ones if we exercise and eat right and don't get stupid and smoke. The things that are most likely to make people fat, after quitting smoking, are antidepressants, stress, genes, and dieting. What's unhealthy is telling people they all have to be the same size.

    Well, I'm bummed. I fell asleep in the middle of Jon Stewart and missed Colbert entirely. (You know you're a geezerette when...) So there are a bunch of Kristian Krazies burrowing into the Mojave? That's going to be pretty toxic for the prairie dogs.

    Nothing Christian about those people, which is why I use the K's.

    But they are stupid.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog!

  3. Thanks for reading. Glad to have sparked a touch of debate.

    @ Anne - Yup, In my mind, fat and stupid are adjectives. I like blunt language, and as mom to a two-year-old, I can attest that he doesn't do nuance.

    I agree on the physical fitness of many fat people.

    And dogs. Regular readers know Lila the Dog is fat (though she prefers that I say she possesses a conservative metabolism). Yet she can run four miles at a stretch and swim as long as I'll let her.

    Also agree agree agree on the KK's.

    @IIWII - I stand by my assertion that smoking is stupid. If that offends a smoker, so be it. It's not breaking news. In contrast, I think eating cupcakes for breakfast or watching tv are "unhealthy" choices, and make for good teaching moments on what's good for the body.

    Smoking is one area where I see no problem with a bright line edict. I think of it this way: I would never hire a smoker to watch my son, but I don't really care what the sitter eats for breakfast before coming over.

    I also don't think "stupid" and "fat" are necessarily offensive words. They're just common adjectives. On the other hand, I'd go ballistic if I heard a racial/sexual slur cross the Grape's lips.