One of the episodes of the radio show This American Life presented the sense of mortification one feels when one says something in the presence of others that reveals that you are suffering under a huge misconception that no one else shares. The broadcast featured such things as thinking that the ‘Nielsen family’ ratings for TV viewership were obtained by only asking families that were named Nielsen or that unicorns really existed.
As one person recounted:
“It was about a group of five to seven people, kind of standing around the keg, just talking. And somehow a discussion of endangered species came up, in which I posed the question, is the unicorn endangered or extinct? And basically, there was a big gap of silence.
And then everybody laughed. And then that laughter was followed by more silence when they realized I wasn’t laughing. And I was like, yeah, oh God, unicorns aren’t real? Oh no.”
I keep being reminded of this episode by the current president who keeps ‘discovering’ things that pretty much everyone else knows, such as that health care is complicated or that being president involves a lot of work. The latest example is a doozy. In an interview he said,
“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
This was just after saying that Andrew Jackson “was very angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this'”, even though Jackson died in 1845, 16 years before the war started. As any high school student can tell you, the causes of the war are discussed exhaustively and the answer is, of course, slavery. But Trump seems to think that he is the first person to have noticed that this question has not been raised or that it could have been solved by other means. Needless to say, this has created considerable merriment.
Maybe Trump thinks that the Civil War was caused by undocumented immigrants and could have been averted if they had only built a wall separating the blacks from the whites.
Next up: Trump wondering why no one has addressed the question of why it gets cold in winter or done something about it.