Ignorance Is Killing Us

Americans aren’t that happy with their democracy. Even though they basically approve of their President, Americans don’t really think we’re on the right track. They hate the divisive nature of politics. They hate the money in politics. They hate the carefully crafted responses and lack of authenticity in politics. They hate the insiders. Americans basically just hate politics.

Some of those are valid complaints, some are not. For the most part, I do find much about the American political system’s insides to be disgusting, and I’ve lived in there. It is a place full of people who “wannabe” important, and rich, aristocratic types who were born into it. Many of the people in politics couldn’t last five minutes in the local watering holes of America, because those people don’t live in the real world. They discuss social issues and theories that absolutely no one in reality cares about, and yet know very little about day-to-day things that most Americans have to deal with. So yeah, I do hear you, average Americans.

JFK once said though, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” and in most of your cases, you’re failing at that task. I’m not talking about joining the Army, the Peace Corps, or even local civic groups, i’m talking about making yourself literate in the issues. Why do you have a government you don’t like? You do get to vote for it. That you elect a Congress who doesn’t care about doing anything, or that you have Governors who spend all their time attacking their political enemies is more about your voting habits than them. The reasons that Americans choose to vote for candidates and parties in general is why we have bad political leaders. Voting based on racial biases and identities has given us incapable political leaders. Voting based on 30 second attack ads has given us incapable political leaders. Voting based on the things that have driven our politics has failed us.

You know what else has failed us? Ignorance. We debate if climate change is real, when the scientists who actually know about the issue say it’s real. We debate issues where statistics answer our questions for us, and we treat the incorrect answer as though it has merit, because you know, “both sides.” We spend countless hours on abortion and other issues where nothing is happening. We get our politics wrong, repeatedly.

We also just don’t really understand the issues we vote on. Americans don’t understand their health care system, but vote based on their opinions of it. Americans don’t understand foreign policy, but vote based on their opinions of it. Americans don’t understand their energy grid or supply, but vote based on their opinions of it. Almost no one understands international trade, and yet we have people holding up their positions on the TPP as a litmus test. We don’t understand the issues that we vote on, but we vote on them.

Worse yet, we’re baited by every “scandal” that our press feeds us. False scandals ranging from emails to “the infiltration of our government by the Muslim Brotherhood” commonly suck up our time. We waste a lot of time on nothing scandals, mostly because it benefits someone politically.

I think that most of us are alarmed by the ignorance that Donald Trump has encouraged in the electorate, but the reality is that this is the tip of the iceberg. Even many of our smart voters could do more to be informed voters. While we laugh at the Sarah Palin’s of the world, do most of us understand what’s going on? Do most of us understand how unproductive Congress is? Do most of us understand how our energy policy has actually changed in the last eight years? I think not. We could do a lot more to understand our system.

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