Last Thursday was April Fools’ Day, the day Census 2010 “must count every person living in the United States.” A bold move, combining the Census with April Fools’ Day – but probably appropo, given the portion of our population making fools of themselves lately.

I’ve been a journalist through the last three censuses (censi?), and being an observer of the human condition, I can state with some confidence that we’ve become more foolish in 20 years (“hysterical” might be a better word). In 1990, people seemed relatively normal. By 2000, peace and prosperity had made us far too complacent for our own good. Then some fool stole the election and the country followed suit.

Which brings us to our current predicament, where polls indicate a good third of the country is now functionally insane. Fortunately, none of these conspiracy theorists will be returning their census forms. How could they when the census is clearly a government plot to deprive them of liberty and relocate them to communist re-education camps in Nevada (and from there load them onto alien spaceships at Area 51)?

But cooperating in any way with government would be a violation of their deeply held principles and a cowardly capitulation to socialism. As the great reactionary geek Grover Norquist famously said, they want to shrink the size of guvmint to the point where it can be drowned in a bathtub.

These folks blame all their woes on the government. They’re blaming the wrong culprit, of course, but don’t try to tell them that. They’re easily outraged (when a Democrat’s in the White House), and any line of reasoning that doesn’t reinforce their absolute certainty is dismissed as liberal lunacy.

As a result, the towns, counties and states across this country with the highest percentage of Tea Party members and sympathizers will be significantly undercounted, which means less government “takeover” in the form of federal funding – you know, for things like educating our children.

Good for you. Hold onto those principles. What nerve the guvmint has, trying to prevent insurance companies from denying our loved ones health care coverage. Who do they think they are? Now they’re talking about reforming the financial industry so it won’t collapse again and land us in a full-fledged Depression. The gall!

All kidding aside, you have to admire the Tea Party’s commitment. They’re involved; they’re active; they realize something is terribly wrong with their country; and they care deeply. If they ever used their heads, they’d be model citizens.

Unfortunately, they’re ruled by emotion (mostly anger and fear) and reactionary talk radio. So they oppose those trying to help and support those who have been screwing them for 30 years (while pretending to be their best friends). Makes you wonder what will happen when they finally figure out who the real bad guys are.

Meanwhile, back here on the planet Earth, the rest of us need to send in those census forms or risk being labeled teabaggers. It took me all of three minutes to fill out mine, and that’s only because I kept checking front and back to make sure there wasn’t more to it.

Admittedly it was easy because the number of people living in my household totals one. If I recall from Census 2000, I represent one of the fastest-growing demographic categories.

I’ve been living alone for 10 years now and have learned there’s a big difference between Emerson’s “self-reliance” and the delusion of being “self-sufficient.” Truly self-reliant people know their limitations. They know when to ask for help. Living alone quickly teaches you that you can’t go it alone.

German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a principled objector to genuine government oppression (Nazi Germany) once said to his fellow countrymen, “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. … Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.” It’s all in the balance.

Losing yourself in the herd is not the same as being authentically connected. On the other hand, you’ll never become a fully formed individual if you can’t find a way to get along with your neighbors.

There’s probably a lesson in that for the Tea Party with its herd hysteria and its myth of rugged individualism – or would be if the Tea Party actually existed, but apparently it doesn’t.

After all, the census won’t be counting them.

Join the discussion on social media!