I know that I don’t fit very well in this world. My way of speaking, my walk, my music tastes. They and so much more make me an oddball in a land full of narcissistic conformists who all believe that they’re special. It’s opposite world for me, and has become more so over the past thirty years. No longer is it that “the customer’s always right.” It’s acceptable that people refuse to give up space in public, step on your shoes and toes and dare you to make them say “excuse me.” Folks refuse to say “thank you” for simple and well-meaning gestures, as if a courtesy would force them to acknowledge your existence. Blind loyalty is how we define patriotism, and becomes a quick path of career advancement. It’s a world that’s full of crap, and makes me wish I owned a societal sewage treatment or compost plant to deal with it all. But none of it is more disappointing that our world’s embracing of stupidity.
As any serious scholar knows, there’s a long history of anti-intellectualism in American culture. It’s existed since the days of Woodrow Wilson, and likely at least a generation longer than that. Yet that’s not what I’m concerned with here. These days, we have a people absolutely proud of their lack of knowledge, choosing to avoid knowing anything for fear of rejection by friends, colleagues, voters and leaders. Our pride in ignorance and stupidity knows no bounds. We have folks like Maureen Dowd and Kathleen Parker, as well
as Faux News, of course, critical of President Obama, mostly because of his biracial Black and elite education background. That includes criticisms over his being “overly patient” and “too deliberate” in addressing complex foreign policy issues. We have NFL coaches laughing on HBO’s Hard Knocks because they couldn’t figure out that two yardsticks and one twelve-inch ruler equals seven feet in length, something that any fifth-grader supposedly should be able to do.
Sarah Palin’s still a popular candidate — perhaps for president, but more likely as a conservative lightning rod — in no small part because she’s refused to embrace knowledge and “those so-called experts” of such. Apparently it’s okay to not listen to what the opposition has to say because they attended Harvard or graduated from Princeton. At least she’s not as stupid as she appears, having made $13 million since the beginning of ’09 off of selling ignorance to her fans.
We have policy wonks, politicians and bigoted Tea Baggers willing to dismiss any and all evidence — not opinion, but objective, painstakingly gathered evidence — that doesn’t fit their White is right and the Right is right view of the world. We have progressives and liberals — from assisted suicide advocates to vegans — who deny others’ points of view or overall context, leaping into full-throated arguments without looking or without imparting their opinions or their knowledge.
Anyone who disagrees with any side based on evidence, knowledge, and of course, wisdom, can expect to see their knowledge shoved to the side. If it were a book, they’d all burn it. If it were a person, they’d jail it. That’s how much our nation hates knowledge and those who possess it. It’s what makes this world so uncomfortable to live in.