“What exactly you mean by yahoo?” Swamp Rabbit said, sounding defensive.
I’d just finished telling him that yahoo-ism is a syndrome that’s been trending for years in this country. That the yahoos among us became louder and more conspicuous when the pandemic hit and Republican politicians began mocking everyone who believes in masking and vaccinations.
I told him Jonathan Swift coined the term “yahoo” in Gulliver’s Travels to identify the disagreeable humans who constantly make messes in the land of the Houyhnhnms, an enlightened, evolved race of horses (maybe a bit too evolved). Swift’s yahoos climb trees and “discharge their excrements” at Gulliver when he encounters them.
“Yahoos are humans who are proudly and stubbornly ignorant,” I explained. “They delight in activities that are mindless and cruel. They have a strong tribal instinct and a countervailing contempt for undertakings that might serve the common good. Yahoos in our country are easily led by unscrupulous cynics who want to retain political power by exploiting their fears and misconceptions.”
“They’re Confederates,” Swamp Rabbit said, catching on. “They say don’t tread on me, don’t try to feed me no Yankee medicines, don’t tell me Biden didn’t steal the election… I stay away from peeps like that.”
I shook my head. “They’re all over the place, not just down South. You can’t ignore them, but you can’t talk to them either. If you try, they drive you to drink.”
I told him about a recent encounter between New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and a gang of yahoos at an event where Murphy gave a speech in which he took a minute to urge the unvaccinated to get jabbed. When the yahoos heckled him, Murphy lost his cool and said, “You’ve lost your minds! You are the ultimate knuckleheads! And because of what you are saying and standing for, people are losing their life!”
Murphy meant there is a direct link between people who refused vaccination and the latest upsurge in covid infections and deaths. His frustration stemmed from knowing that yahoos always argue they can say “no” because the government effort to accomplish universal vaccination is a violation of their liberty. And so what if liberty, as they define it, amounts to a license to harm others? So what if it’s nothing but the lowest sort of selfishness?
“What would your boy Swifty think of today’s yahoos?” Swamp Rabbit said. “Would he be able to spot ’em?”
“Oh sure,” I replied. “All he’d have to do is watch for the good old boys and girls who are discharging their excrements at doctors and other health professionals who are trying to save their lives.”