Short People got no reason to live
They got little hands and little eyes
And they walk around tellin' great big lies
Randy Newman's silly novelty song didn't mean much to me when it was getting airplay back in 1977. I heard other schoolkids parroting it, of course, but seriously, we were seven. We were all short.
Decades passed. Randy Newman now makes hideous coin writing treacly songs for Disney, schoolkids now parrot songs about niggaz and hoes and we once young sprats have grown up.
Of course, for some of us, "growing up" wasn't so literal a thing. Mature, yeah. Tall, not so much.
So I'll never tap the rim, let alone dunk. So I sit on a cushion to help me see over the steering wheel. So I insist my Teutonic goddess of a wife wear flats, in a vain (in every sense) attempt to minimize the contrast.
I'm happy. I'm healthy.
But then this upstart of a quote-unquote scientist tells me I'm neither.
According to Dr. Torsten Christensen, "We know that people who are short experience more difficulties in areas of their life such as education, employment and relationships than people of a normal height....Although our study does not show that short height directly causes a reduction in physical and mental health, it does indicate that short people are more likely to feel that they experience a lower health-related quality of life."
Now this statement comes after distilling the results of a national survey in the UK, and if that's what the numbers they got suggest, fine. Perhaps short British people have it much, much worse.
But the silly bit comes here: "[Christensen] added that an increase in height of one inch would have a positive impact on the health-related quality of life of a short person, whereas the effect of an extra inch would be negligible for a person of normal height."(1)
Hellfire! Let me get right on that! I'll pop down to the basement and lie down on the rack. A few turns every evening and I should be closer to 'normal' in no time! The itchy spots on my knees, jaundiced worldview and inability to find lasting employment will undoubtedly sort themselves out!
Still, Dr. Christensen's comments are only short shrift for short folk.
On a grander scale were the comments last week of Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA).
During floor debate in an attempt to override President Bush's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, a testy Stark exclaimed, "You [Republicans] don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."(2)
Wow. I wonder if he took the time to catch a breath in that sentence somewhere. I won't argue the man's politics; everyone has a right to an opinion. I will argue that his grasp of grammar is tenuous, his point of argument is nebulous, and his sense of decorum is odorous.
Look, I'm no big fan of President Bush, and I wasn't convinced that invading Iraq was a brilliant idea even back when we were all hoodwinked into thinking that Saddam had WMDs in every baby formula plant between the Tigris and Euphrates. But I'd never stoop so low as to think -- let alone vocalize -- that Dubya gets his jollies every night sipping Cheerwine and munching on pork rinds while watching Al Jazeera, hoping for a beheading like NASCAR fans hope for a pileup coming out of Turn 3. And even if I did, I certainly wouldn't say it when all hope of generating enough votes to overturn a presidential veto was dependent on swaying enough Republican congressmen to my side. Because insulting the party in power is generally not the best way to gain their cooperation.
I doubt Speaker Nancy Pelosi (also D-CA) broke a sweat when she called Stark's comments "inappropriate." But I would wager that later that day, Pelosi called Stark and employed a number of other comments that would be inappropriate for the House floor, warning him that flapping his gums is not an option when legislation's on the line.
Unlike Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig, however, Stark won't be thrown to the lions. Right-wing talk radio will rage against him for awhile, but ultimately he'll fade back into the central California nut grove, lauded by a few firebrand liberals and forgotten by everyone else.
You see, if you want to make an ass of yourself on a global level today, you need some notoriety...like being a Nobel laureate.
Dr. James Watson became one of the world's best-known scientists in 1962, when his groundbreaking work in revealing the structure of DNA won him a Nobel prize. Now 79, the Monty Burns lookalike was on a book tour a week or so ago when he gave an interview to the Sunday Times of London.
In the interview, Dr. Watson said that "he was 'inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa' because 'all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says not really.' Watson also asserted there was no reason to believe different races separated by geography should have evolved identically, and he said that while he hoped everyone was equal, 'people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true.'"(3)
Since the interview was published, there has been the requisite explosion of outrage, followed by the traditional backpedaling and apologies. Watson stated, "I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said."
It's elementary, old chap: You opened up your mouth, and the words came out.
The Sunday Times, after all, is not some fly-by-night tabloid, nor does it send nincompoops to interview scientists of Watson's caliber. I have every confidence that the interviewer got the quotes right; after all, it wasn't one disparaging comment, but a couple.
Moreover, this isn't the first time Watson has let his ignoble prejudices spill past his lips. In 1997, he said that if a gene that caused homosexuality were ever isolated, an unborn child found to carry the gene could be justifiably aborted. In 2000, he suggested to a lecture hall at UC-Berkeley that people with darker skin color had a higher sex drive. And in 2003, he said that stupidity was a genetic problem that could be treated.
Well, now. Just like I believe it's too late for me to get any taller, I'd say it's probably too late for Dr. Watson to get treated for his inherent stupidity. And yes, racism and other forms of xenophobia are usually passed down from parents to their offspring. Watson has two adult sons; I hope they grew up to be smarter than their old man.
There's a last bit of brilliant irony as well. The book Watson was pushing on his tour is titled "Avoid Boring People: Lessons From a Life in Science."
Congratulations, Dr. Watson. I believe a second edition is now screaming to be published.
1. Shorter people 'have a chip on their shoulder which makes them unhealthy'
2. Pelosi Rebukes Stark for Iraq Comments
3. 'Race Row' Nobel Winner Suspended
If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.
ABOUT RUSS CARR
more about russ carr
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
10.24.07 @ 12:44p
I think my only real prejudice is that white sugar doesn't sweeten as well as brown sugar.
But I have been known to disparage asian drivers. Justifiably, since I live in what is known to locals as 'Hong-couver' and the VAST majority of non-alcohol-related accidents are caused by people who 'share drivers licenses' or are driving without one, or ... I could go ON and ON about the reasons I've heard from a friend who is an RCMP. It's tragic, but funny. Funny, until there is a person trying to merge into a space in your lane - a space which you are CURRENTLY OCCUPYING.
10.24.07 @ 1:50p
I'm not trying to take a tack against silly prejudices here; Alex did just fine with it in her column last week. Besides, everyone - and I mean everyone - has prejudices, whether they care to acknowledge them or not.
I also don't want to come off as being a pro-PC speak harpy, because I'm far from that, too. Warping your language for the sake of inclusivity is ridiculous.
My irkiness is for those -- particularly those who should know better, say, like scientists and politicians whom we'd expect to be more practiced in their pronouncements -- spewing all manner of nonsense, wonderfully ludicrous opinions couched as facts, or baseless theories that the media laps up and regurgitates.
Seriously, if you're that desperate for attention, run down Main Street naked.
Except you, Dr. Watson; no one needs to see that.
10.24.07 @ 2:23p
The problem I have with people being all "you love war and hate children!!!" is that it's such an obvious straw man, it hurts the legitimacy of people who want to draw attention to that juxtaposition in a more reasoned and productive way. I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican, you owe it to each other to recognize that you're all human, and debate that isn't carried on at a mature and respectable level isn't going to get anything f*@#ing done.
Watson, well, I can't really defend, and won't try. Nor would I defend Randy Newman.
10.24.07 @ 2:48p
russ - politicians fall into the 'should know better' category? I suppose SHOULD is the qualifying word, but WHOA. You realize who you're speaking of, right?
jael - debate carried out on a mature and responsible level doesn't sell books. and seal votes. Because we all know if 'mature and responsible' were the words of the day, Anne Coulter and Ron Paul would be out of jobs. And what fun is THAT to the Greater American Public?
In relation to the column - Is it just me, or are people more stupid these days? Is it just the media, being more dialed in, getting the 'good quotes'? Or are people, in general more biased, more prejudiced and LESS LIKELY to keep their traps shut?
10.25.07 @ 3:34p
a) Since when are the Republicans the "party in power"? Did we have an election that I missed?
b) I totally believe stupidity is hereditary. So is height. So are freckles.
c) Sometimes I get down about being short, but then I remember a car accident I was in in 12th grade. SUV slammed into the side of my 4-door. If I'd been taller (i.e., sitting with the seat further back), the bar between the front and rear left-side doors would have embedded itself in my left side, rather than in the seat itself. Then I don't feel so bad.
10.27.07 @ 10:00a
Another brilliant example, coming out of the FEMA Press Conference debacle. (For the uninitiated, FEMA had a press conference where all the "press" was FEMA employees.)
I love this idiot's attempt to minimize the damage:
"It was absolutely a bad decision. I regret it happened. Certainly … I should have stopped it," said John "Pat" Philbin, FEMA's director of external affairs. "I hope readers understand we're working very hard to establish credibility and integrity, and I would hope this does not undermine it."
Why, of course not, Mr. Philbin! Nothing says "credibility and integrity" like a fabricated news conference.
Adam: Republicans control the White House and a substantial enough percentage of Congress (even though it's not a numerical majority) to ensure that nothing gets through without their say-so. That makes them the de jure party in power. Therefore, when you're trying to override a veto, you don't alienate the necessary swing-vote (GOP) congressmen needed to get the job done by insulting their party.
ETA story link.
10.30.07 @ 10:38a
It's elementary, old chap: You opened up your mouth, and the words came out.
People tend to conveniently ignore this, which is really stupid. And, it doesn't matter if people call you short, because:
1) You always stand tall
2) You can inflict pain faster where the sun don't shine :-)