There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
This statement from legendary sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov has been kicking around for over thirty years now and it seems like the cult of ignorance to which he refers has been growing and gathering in strength over this time. It really struck home for me this weekend when I saw a statement from former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum from his appearance at the Values Voters Summit. Speaking before the gathering of social conservatives, he said:
“We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country. We will never have the elite, smart people on our side, because they believe they should have the power to tell you what to do.”
Never have smart people on our side? What a strange thing to claim as a rallying cry!
But beyond the absurdity of that statement, it really goes back to Asimov’s quote. There has been a culture of anti-intellectualism that has been brewing for some time now, a group of people who demonize science and scientific research as being part of some left-wing conspiracy that seeks to ruin the world with their so-called “evidence” on climate change and evolution, among many other things. Instead these social conservatives seek to usurp family values as their own , as though the “smart” people couldn’t possibly have the same level of love or care for their own families.
A few weeks ago I read an account of a gathering of these like-minded folks in the Scranton area in support of the Romney campaign. One of the participants said that she was there because she believed in family values which were qualities that the people that made up the Democratic side didn’t possess. She said that these people on the other side were single moms, minorities, gays and immigrants. All lacking the same family values that she and her conservatives friends held high. I could only shake my head in disbelief at the audacity and ignorance of her words. It really pointed out the stakes in this election.
I have tried to keep politics out of this blog for some time although my political leanings are fairly evident to anyone who takes the time to read. I don’t want to tell anyone how to live their lives and I want to live mine as I see fit. Plain and simple. But this is an important election that is coming up in November and I feel as though I have to at least speak up against the shrill and self-righteous voices coming from the right because they speak for nobody that I know. All of the single moms, gays, minorities and immigrants that I know have more dignity, compassion and family values than this woman ever had.
I have stood by for the past several years and have heard and read all of the stupidity and exclusionary rhetoric I can stand. I may not be the smartest guy in the world and am , in fact, very seldom the smartest guy in any room I enter. But, unlike these people who revel in their ignorance and denial of facts and science, I aspire to and revere greater knowledge and wisdom. And that’s what I see this election season as being about. It’s not just a presidential election, Obama or Romney. It goes deeper that that, into all localities. It is a cultural referendum. A choice between this vision that denies science and wants to return to a time in America that only existed in their fact-deprived minds and one that looks forward and accepts the challenges that the future presents. It’s a time to put this celebration of ignorance behind us.
Sorry for the detour off the art path. I’ll try to stay on track in the future…