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To repeat: Ignorance is not bliss

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(An updated version of an unfortunately recurring topic.)

By Bob Gaydos

"Because Americans are stupid," I said.

And with that harsh assessment of the intellectual capacity of my fellow countrymen and women, we generally shook our heads, finished our coffee and said, "See you next week."

For several years, I had a weekly coffee date with a friend whom I considered to be intelligent, well-informed, level-headed and close-lipped. We talked about life, family and, mostly because of my interest, a little politics. At some point in our rambling conversation, he would inevitably ask, "Why do they do that?"

And I would inevitably reply, "Because Americans are stupid." Sometimes, I said "dumb."

Harsh. I know. Judgmental. It risks being called elitist. But I submit the last seven-plus years of American politics as Exhibit A that many Americans are willfully ignorant, that they don't know about things they know they should know about or don't do things for their own benefit because they are too lazy, which also is dumb.

Participatory democracies don't do well on dumb and lazy. They wind up being ripe for exploitation by authoritarian thugs who want only to gain power and keep it for their own enrichment. They prey on the dumb and lazy, or the bigoted and misinformed, or the racist and ill-educated, or the fearful and easily manipulated.

However you choose to say it, this is where America is today: Much of our public debate and government action is driven by fears and falsehoods directed at and repeated by an aggressive, sometimes militant, minority of mostly iIl-informed white Americans who have been sold a bill of goods by power-hungry, wealthy autocrats and their cowardly foot soldiers in the Republican Party. Dumb.

This minority has achieved outsized influence in large part thanks to the capitulation of a considerably larger group of Americans who have lacked the awareness or the will, or both, to participate in the democratic process through the simple step of voting.

Lazy and dumb.

It's not considered polite or politically savvy to say such things publicly, but look where that's got us:

--The FBI raiding the home of a former U.S. president to recover boxes of classified documents removed from the White House and elected Republican officials encouraging violence against the FBI agents who carried out their duty.

--That same ex-president promoting violence against a New York district attorney who dared to accuse him of campaign finance crimes by paying hush money to cover up infidelities that could hurt his election chances.

--A major TV "news" network knowingly feeding its viewers a daily diet of lies because if it told them the truth they would go to some other source that would tell them only the stuff that made them feel good and angry. Good, because it supported their narrow-minded, ill-informed, perhaps bigoted views on life, and angry because others not only didn't share them, but, they believed, were trying to make them live by those views.

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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