There’s just something about trying times that brings out the worst in people. While most would resort to anger or fear, Americans have a distinctive talent for falling back on their ability to be inhumanly stupid.

The latest group of idiots surfaced in the small New England town of New Providence where a soldier in the military was given the remnants of an American flag found in the rubble of the World Trade Center. The flag itself was a rotten mess. It was filled with gaping holes and jagged around the edges. Only 38 stars remained. The soldier returned home from New York and decided that the flag should be retired.

Then things got tricky. It seemed a group of people in the small, sleepy burg got wind of the artifact and started throwing a tantrum that would put even the most ADD-addled 5-year-old to shame. To them, giving the flag a proper burial was out of the question since it stood as a symbol of all those who died on Sept. 11. They wanted it put on display.

Now, this wasn’t a friendly disagreement. It wasn’t a pleasant little town meeting where delegates respectfully stated their opinions and used “I” statements. No. I turned on the TV and saw two women standing in the middle of the street screeching at each other like a pair of harpies; their voices shattering the crisp autumn air as their claws hungered for the soft, gooey goodness in each others’ eye sockets.

The soldier looked like he’d been through a rough one. By going solely off the reaction of his townsfolk, you would’ve thought his intentions were to wipe his ass with the tattered remnants and smoke the rest of it while reveling in the company of several harlots.

But it doesn’t end there. The poor soldier, after unwittingly igniting a firestorm, worked with his supports to create a compromise. He was allowed to retire a small scrap of the flag while the rest of it was strung up as a symbol of American spirit. The ceremony given to the soiled patch was complete with bonfires, rifles and military brass. The rest of the pathetic remains are now stapled to a wooden board where young and old may salute it and feel proud.

The best part of this whole circus act was that it managed to be the leading story for one television station and a

following story for another. Someone, somewhere, thought that this example of human stupidity at its greatest was not only newsworthy, but pertinent enough to come before the story of Bush’s visit to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in China.

It goes to show how the same human race that built sprawling cities and put life in places where it never existed can act like a confederacy of overgrown, feces-slinging apes. We seem to be having a hard time readjusting to our normal lives, and a part of me thinks that we don’t want to.

We’re happy having something we can easily raise hell over – for once you can have an uninformed opinion and sound reasonably intelligent. These conditions are perfect breeding grounds for the common moron to crawl out of its hole and spread a little of its tainted wisdom.

In the end, when all things are said and done, does it really matter what becomes of that mangled flag? Will its preservation cause the rest of the world to be so overwhelmed that it immediately ends all conflict and enters a period of

enlightenment never before seen by the eyes of man and God alike?

If you think about it, making a fool out of yourself requires a lot of effort, so it’s a wonder how so many people manage to do it so easily. But then again, we’re Americans, and we’ve never backed down from a challenge yet.

Daily Nexus columnist Steven Ruszczycky likes to make fun of other people to boost his own self-esteem. His column may have finally found a home on Tuesdays, but it still lacks a name.