John Bartus

We Baby Boomers will likely remember the old Trident gum commercials that used to start with the phrase, “Four out of five dentists recommend Trident gum for their patients who chew gum.” It always left me wondering about what the other dentist – the one out of five – believed would be better than Trident. (Taffy? Tire rubber? Red Man chewing tobacco?) Well, dear readers, it seems like the “one out of five” believes some pretty strange things!

A recent poll showed that one out of five Americans can’t identify the United States on a map of the world. I’m not sure if it’s the same one out of five Americans who don’t know who we declared independence from Great Britain back in 1776, but I bet it is. And I also bet it’s the same one out of five Americans who pee in the pool.

Now some of you may be thinking that one out of five Americans is only 20% of us, and that it’s not really that bad that 20% of us didn’t pay attention in history or geography classes. Fine. Keep on believing it’s not a horrible comment on (the lack of) American intelligence. Just remember that the next time you’re in a swimming pool with 50 of our fellow citizens, inclusive of those one out of five (or 10 in 50) Americans who are peeing in the pool as we speak. Towel, please.

It still doesn’t get better. One out of five of us believes that the sun revolves around the Earth. And you thought it was only pre-Copernican astronomers, popes and Flat Earthers? In concordance with this return to medieval thinking, one out of five Americans believes that witches are real! With the popularity of the teen vampire and werewolf movies and TV shows a few years back — not to mention the wizardry and fantastic beasts in recent productions — I’m sure that belief in all scary monsters has risen exponentially. But it’s only 20%, right?

Running down some more of the improbable statistics, one out of five Americans believes that alien abductions are real (that would explain the appearance of Florida Senator Rick Scott), that the Apocalypse will happen in their lifetime, and that state-run lotteries are a sound financial investment. No wonder people like Bernie Madoff were so successful.

One out of five Americans doesn’t use the Internet. At all. This time, it’s probably not the same one out of five Americans who is unhappy with the broadband connection speed. Although that means that at least one in five of us doesn’t spend way too much time wading through all the Certified Social Media Experts on Everything who populate Facebook.

I’ve been using the “one out of five Americans” grouping like it’s a bad thing. (If the helmet fits…) It’s not always a bad thing, however, to be outside the norm, apart from the great unwashed, above-average, or simply brilliant (like the above-average and brilliant people who read this column). In a recent survey done by the McCormick Foundation, a majority of Americans were able to name freedom of speech as one of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. That’s good. Just a little over one out of five Americans, however, were able to name freedom of religion as one of them. And only one in a thousand could name all five (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly/right to peaceably assemble, and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances).

What’s worse, a recent poll has found that 51 percent of Americans agree with this statement: “It is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.” How far are we willing to go?

(By the way, this has nothing to do with wearing masks to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. The abject idiots in the Grand Café in Key West who were calling local police “gestapos” and citing the Constitution have no idea what real repression is all about. Just wear the damn mask.)

Benjamin Franklin once said, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security.” If only more than one out of five Americans actually believed that…

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