Ignorance

I’ve written this post a hundred times over the last six months. I’ve written versions out of anger, and ones that were just long rambling rants. I’ve also talked myself out of publishing this post as many times as I’ve written it (for good reason). But today – maybe it’s because I’ve been reading the news too much or because I’m listening to Gloria Steinem’s book (which is making me angry in the most wonderful way) or because Martin Luther King Jr. day is tomorrow – I decided it’s time. Because as many reasons I have for not putting this out in the world, I have one more to do it. It may be minuscule, but I have a little corner of the internet, and if I’ve learned anything lately, it’s that I should use it. I’m going to refrain from mentioning specific politics – partly because I don’t want to offend anyone, but mostly because I really don’t want an argument (I enjoy intelligent arguments, but those rarely occur behind the anonymity of the internet).

This morning, as I do most mornings, I read the day’s top news stories – mostly politics, and one about a two-foot long baby that was born a week ago. And it wasn’t the giant baby that made me want to scream. It is the politicians who are fueling and feeding off of the fear and ignorance of the masses. And the fact that it’s working.

America has a problem. It’s called ignorance. It’s the thing that makes our post-911 world react with fear and anger to the word jihad, a word that actually means “striving, applying oneself, struggling, persevering.” As someone who as studied both history and world religions, I see it as a good thing – motivation for continuous self-improvement and faith, especially during difficult times -even though I don’t identify as Muslim. Instead, it’s used as a tool to alienate and oppress. Ignorance is why, in 2015, there was still a confederate flag flying in a government building and a statue of Jefferson Davis on a college campus. It’s the source of racist and sexist jokes and policies. It’s why little boys are teased for wearing pink or playing with dolls, and why girls shy away from science and math. And it’s not okay.

I don’t care what your beliefs are or who you support politically. Which, if I may say so, is the principle our country was founded on. One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson once said,

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.

Which is exactly the advice we’re not following. The unknown, be it a difference religion, race, gender, political belief, whatever, causes fear – and, in the words of Yoda, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side.” Instead of learning about what we fear, and often eliminating or easing that fear as a result, people tend to lash out against it. It’s human nature. And it can be tempered with education and logic, things which our country is sorely lacking. I’m not calling everyone stupid, but, let’s face it, the mob mentality is not exactly intelligent.

I realize this is probably not the ideal audience for this post – the majority, if not the entirety, of my readers are educated and intelligent (and good for you!). And I honestly don’t know if this essay will make any difference at all. But I couldn’t read one more news story about how the U.S. should close our borders without saying something about it. We can make America great again, but that is not the way to do it. Take it from someone who has obsessively studied history since I learned how to read – we may have spent the past century making slow progress, but the wheels have begun to turn backwards. We’re headed in a very bad direction, and I’m honestly terrified because this train does not seem to be losing momentum. And the only thing I can think of to do is write this post.

I feel a rant coming on, so I’m going to stop here (but feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss this topic more). But, since it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day tomorrow, I will end with one of his quotes:

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

If you want to comment on this post – be nice. I don’t care if you disagree with me, just don’t be an asshole about it. Which is kind of a good rule for life, don’t you think?

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7 thoughts on “Ignorance

  1. Stephanie, well done to post this, regardless of the fact that most who read it probably agree. Ignorance is the basest problem the U.S. faces–the lack of education gives rise to many other fundamental problems. To take Yoda’s words in the other direction, fear arises from the lack of knowledge, which arises from the lack of education. And like fear, closed mindedness is the offspring lack of knowledge.
    The founding fathers implemented mechanisms to guard against dangerous populism and mob mentality, which they considered dangerous to the health of our democratic republic. Populism has chipped away at of those safeguards over the years incrementally enough to make them ineffective. Our dwindling level of education has blinded us to this reality, as well as to the contribution derived from the counter-majoritarian mechanism incorporated in the constitution to give the voiceless a voice.
    Thomas Jefferson espoused the premise that an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people, thus he built a university. James Madison said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” Sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity have been incrementally eroding the power that allows self governance, the result of which imperils our survival as a free people.
    Education is the enemy of populism and mob mentality; ignorance is the enemy of a free people.
    Like you, I am terrified of our train’s destination. I would love to continue this, but do not want to rant on your blog. Oh, and stellar finish to your post! I love your rule; may I quote it?

    Like

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