VII. Modern American Stupidity
Stupidity has been a component of Americana ever since the first explorers stumbled onto the New World. In fact, the most surprising thing about America's discovery is not the usual "When" and "By whom" but the "How often" explorers had to learn of it for themselves. No other land has been discovered so often, and if all claims in this matter are valid, it was first discovered by the Irish, Romans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Libyans, Norsemen, Welsh, Scots, Venetians and Portuguese.
Of Columbus, it might be said he was the last to discover America. He is honored as the discoverer because he had the good fortune to make his discovery when his supporting culture was cognitively prepared to appreciate it and technologically developed enough to exploit it. However, he had no inkling of what he had found nor even where he was when he set foot in the New World. He had started out for east Asia and just happened to bump into America because it was in the way. Since he had no idea what the Orient was like, he assumed he had achieved his goal and died without knowing he had accomplished more as a failure than do most "Successful" explorers.
After Columbus had shown the way, the Old World was ready and eager to follow his lead to where ever it was he had gone. The horizons and opportunities for stupidity now widened and broadened, and new forms of idiocy burst out of the traditional molds of misbehavior. Stupidity was no longer confined to the stodgy constraints of restrictive patterns of thought and action but became brash, reckless and inventive in a world in which imagination seemed the only limitation on possible blunders.
Despite this, generally speaking, those who settled the New World could not miss. Once a colony was established, the land was so rich that it did not matter what system or non-system of government, economy or society developed: nature was so generous that any would succeed.
The nineteenth century saw the end of the Golden Age of individual stupidity. In the 1800's, people went out on their own, made their own