Can a black woman be a dumb blonde*? Can a grieving mother totally miss the point? And other pressing questions raised on Larry King.
"I don't care whether the earth is round or flat, I have a child to raise."
—Sherri Shepherd, talk-show cohost and newly minted self-help author, on Larry King Live, referring to her confusion on the point, which she voiced one day on The View.
Sherri, honey, you seem likable enough, but I'm sorry, somewhere in there among raising your child and doing The View and promoting this new book and launching that new Lifetime sitcom of your very own, you need to care about little things like whether the earth is round or flat. The shape of the earth is one of those bits of core knowledge that humankind depends on to ensure the continued survival (and, one hopes, progress) of the species. And yet Shepherd says that when she first blurted the line in utter frustration during a segment of The View, she received tons of supportive feedback from other mothers. How sad. In fact, in discussing her book, she almost makes this self-absorbed, know-nothing approach to life sound like a form of feminism, i.e.: "Our plate is already full enough. Each of us has the right to do what works for us personally, and if I want to be ignorant, I'm entitled. I'm too busy to be expected to know stuff, too."** Shame on you, Sherri. Especially as parents, we need to uphold the importance (and, I dare say, the love) of knowledge, and we need to model that ethic for our children...not write books that imply that raising a child is somehow unrelated to questions of learning, even if we're being at least partly tongue-in-cheek. As it is, American students don't know a damned thing. Their performance in state-by-state competency testing, and especially international testing, where we face off against other industrialized nations, is appalling. If we knew more, maybe we could do more. Maybe we wouldn't make as many stupid mistakes. Which brings us to:
"I was impressed by the way he synthesized all these Western and Eastern concepts."
—Virginia Brown, mother of sweat lodge victim Kirby Brown, also on Larry King Live, explaining her own prior participation in a James Ray "Harmonic Wealth" seminar.
No, Virginia, he doesn't "synthesize" anything. He pulls stuff out of his ass, making it up as he goes along, saying anything and everything he can think of to project cosmic and karmic awareness so that suckers like you (and, tragically, your late daughter) will continue to hand him $9695. I hear lines like that from self-help victims and I think I am almost as angry at them as I am at the James Rays of the world. Brown's point appeared to be in part that Ray had always struck her as being so earnest and intelligent in the past that she was shocked, just shocked, at the recklessness and coldness of his actions (or inaction) out in Sedona. Keep in mind, this is no Sherri Shepherd here; the woman is a clinical psychologist. And so I am extra-angry at you, Virginia. I am angry at your gullibility (and, let's face it, the degree to which you probably encouraged or "enabled" similar gullibility in your daughter). I am angry at your ostensible willingness to trash the teachings and orthodoxies of your own craft in order to subscribe to this mumbo-jumbo. I am angry at your continuing need to alibi, at least somewhat, for alleged belief systems and personal-growth tactics that most of the rest of us would've recognized as asinine and potentially dangerous even before our children died in a sweat lodge.
And, in postscript, a thought for the day: If there's any substance at all to The Secret, is it possible that James Arthur Ray is indeed beginning to get back from the Universe what he projects into it?***
* No offense to blondes. Really. I just used the phrase for its headline appeal.
** She didn't say this specifically, but it's the gist of what she said, and, in a sense, the point of her book.
*** That is just a stab at mordant humor. Please don't think for a moment that, just because the "karma has turned," I'm suddenly subscribing to the insanity of it all.