It is generally considered an insult to call someone “stupid”.
Okay, I get that. I am not without feelings on the subject. Stupid people have feelings just like I do. But if I have to live with “nerd”, “geekazoid”, “brainiac”, and “four-eyes”, I am thinking they don’t have to be more sensitive than I am.
Truthfully, life as a mentally gifted person of no color is a bit of trial even if people don’t generally understand that. I have an I.Q. in the range of 155, (calculated from my ACT and SAT scores using standard statistical analysis, give or take 5% for margin of error due to the nature of the calculation… am I scaring you yet?) I had trouble fitting in with my peers as a child. I related better to older people rather than my appropriate age group, and until my best friend, a preacher’s kid, moved to town when I was nine, I really had no friends and was routinely picked on and preyed upon by other kids. It was so bad that I was making C’s and D’s in school primarily because I didn’t want to be identified as smart. Once the eye doctor hung black horn-rimmed glasses on my face, my fate as a socially doomed uber-nerd was sealed. And my friend Mark, who would grow up to become an actuary with mathematical gifts, moved away when I was a freshman in high school. I had to help stupid people with homework and class work… I was required to endure threats, bribes, and tearful pleas to help athletes cheat on tests. Bullies made me tie their shoes and endure endless jokes about the size of my private parts. Life was terrible until I decided to go out for high school football. I was small and thin and probably doomed as I made the team, but I had a secret weapon. I understood almost instinctually that angles, trajectories, and leverage can make the difference over sheer muscle power. During one football drill where we had to pick up and carry our partner for five yards, I was matched with the big offensive tight end, George Merlock, who outweighed me by almost a hundred pounds and was literally Incredible Hulk-like in football pads. I simply used my shoulder on the proper spot under his armpit and lifted with my legs. I picked him up and carried him for twenty yards when some of the other players who were bigger and stronger than me couldn’t even lift him. After that moment, I was never bullied again. For one thing, I impressed George so much that he would’ve killed them for even looking at me cross-eyed. Life got better. A cheerleader asked me out on a date (though I said no because I thought they were still making fun of me… which I later learned I was mistaken about and I had accidentally hurt her feelings).
So what does that whole long-winded whiffle-story of my misspent youth have to do with stupid people? Well, I am one. (Doesn’t the cheerleader thing prove that?) Smart people can be stupid more often than your average ordinary Joe. A character like Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory is funny because his intelligence and his social abilities are so wildly mismatched that he often makes totally stupid geekazoid mistakes.
But there are also stupid people who are actually not smart. Writing humor has taught me to draw upon the experiences of people I have known who were less than knowledgeable. People with lower than normal I.Q.’s. Life has taught me to value and even love people like that. In my novel Snow Babies, at least one of the clown characters is a stupid person. Harker Dawes is an inept businessman in the process of destroying a successful business that he bought from one of the town’s most beloved and respected elders. He immobilizes himself with super glue. He gets nailed to a poster board with a nail gun. Accidents and near-fatal pratfalls are his trademark. And yet, he is a sympathetic and loveable character. He is generous to a fault. He has a simple, good heart. Practically everything he does is a mistake, and yet, people grow fond of him and help him out because they appreciate his innate goodness and value as a person.
So, I really think calling someone stupid can be a sort of compliment. Forrest Gump calls himself stupid, but that character from Winston Groom’s novels and the award-winning movie of the same name is really a very wise and lovely man, though he is not smart. I have to say that I really no longer resent being called stupid, because no matter how smart I actually am, stupid is sort of a compliment. (But how about climate-change deniers, Texas politicians, and anybody who believes what they say on Fox News, you say? They are not stupid. That is willful ignorance. It may take a whole other post to make that difference clear.)