Are Georgia Folks Just Plain Stupid or What?
This is an awkward thing to say, but there may be something about Georgia that's actually making people stupid.
Look at that couple in Pike County. Police say Charles and Cynthia Gavett tried to collect $200,000 in life insurance by faking Cynthia Gavett's death. Charles Gavett claimed his wife had a Sept. 11 appointment in the World Trade Center. This scam can't have been unique, but the Georgia couple's version had a peculiar distinction: The "dead" wife was still bouncing around Pike County after Sept. 11, as the insurance company easily learned when it contacted the local sheriff.
Stupid? Charles Gavett's former boss said his ambition "was to move up to Georgia and try to slow things down."
Or what about the bank executive from Gainesville, Michael Shane Lasseter? He was so hot to get to a University of Georgia football game in Mississippi that he freaked everybody out by dashing past security at Hartsfield International Airport and running down an up escalator.
Lasseter claimed he didn't know what was happening when anti-terrorist alarms started blaring and the authorities shut down the world's busiest airport for three hours.
Is it a gene? Something in the water? A function of very low expectations?
This stuff keeps happening. Consider the many schools that start out with "zero tolerance" policies against weapons, drugs, etc. --- but then end up expelling kids for carrying a Tweetie Bird key ring or pretending that grape juice is wine.
We aren't just talking about hysteria here, or bad judgment, or overreacting. We're talking stupid. No? There's an obtuseness in such cases that transcends all human categories.
Clever Atlanta Democrats do it, as do homely rural Republicans. Remember Mayor Bill Campbell's assertion that delivering paid speeches written by city employees to city contractors was his private business?
And it would have been hard to out-stupid Rep. Saxby Chambliss, who recently suggested that one way to deal with terrorists was "just turn [the sheriff] loose and let him arrest every Muslim that crosses the state line." (This from the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Home Defense who's also a candidate for the U.S. Senate.)
Suburban kids bashing mailboxes. People so dumb about condoms that Atlanta still suffers from syphilis, a vanishing national disease --- including some of those unspeakable "Lost Children of Rockdale County." A Fulton County commissioner who accepted a bribe in a restaurant whose policy of videotaping illicit behavior was posted on a sign.
Obviously crime and sex are notorious everywhere for stirring the deepest currents of the dumb. But we've had some real doozies. Remember the Falcons' safety Eugene Robinson who got arrested the night before the 1999 Super Bowl for soliciting sex? (Professional athletes almost rank with writers for acting very stupidly.)
Remember the Gold Club trial? What a tale of horny, pathetic, money-wasting idiocy and delusion! Naturally, it made the news from coast to coast.
The Ray Lewis murder trial was even worse. The crime --- involving two dead men, guns, knives, jewelry, booze, a stretch limo, insults, fleeing the scene, lying to the cops --- was as stupid as they get.
But recall what the Fulton County DA did. He let Ray Lewis go because there hadn't been any evidence against him in the first place. And then the other defendants walked.
Think of the Georgia Department of Transportation chopping down trees for years to improve the state's environment for ugly billboards . . . of streets without sidewalks in one of America's most obese states . . . of a CDC more interested in obesity than in bioterrorism.
Maybe some of those are "issues" or "problems," not cases of plain stupidity. But you can't say the same for Ralph Abernathy III trying to hide the marijuana in his underpants, or for John Rocker discoursing on minorities.
. . .
Its causes, alas, remain shrouded in mystery. Its solution, alas, probably will inspire some new slogan. Something like: "Georgia! We Love You Anyway, You Big Stupid!"