Although I am a Canadian, I have many American friends and have spent a lot of time in the US. I recognize the power and influence that resides below our border and therefore, follow closely the political and religious (the line between which is increasingly blurry I’m afraid) ongoings of the country. I have to say that I am discouraged, bewildered and sometimes afraid at the state of affairs these days.
The anti-intellectualism exhibited primarily by the right-wing in the US is shocking. People seem to pride themselves in having faith over having knowledge and refuse to listen to any information coming from the other side, even if it is fact. They don’t believe in fact anymore it would seem – only nuance and semantics. Fox news will lie outright (a good example would be when they labelled disgraced Florida representative, Mark Foley as a democrat) and people don’t even notice. And when they do notice they somehow, don’t care! A true democracy relies on an informed base and I’m afraid that the American media and the American people have failed to do their job.
The question though, is where does this lack of critical evaluation and consideration come from? I would argue it is rooted in religion. When you are encouraged to take things on faith rather than evidence it is only a matter of time before that same approach seeps into the rest of your life. When your brain becomes habituated to shutting down, not questioning and ignoring evidence which does not support your world view, it starts to atrophy. This effect is crystalized by a society that celebrates this “fiction over fact” mentality and it perpetuates itself into homes, schools and the media. My mother-in-law, who is Mormon, has a sign on her fridge that reads “Character is higher than intellect.” Each time we visit, my husband and I are tempted to write “And intellect is higher than God.” but so far we haven’t touched the damn thing. What does character mean exactly anyway? Grrr…this could launch me into a whole other subject so I’m going to stop thinking about that sign on the fridge door. That damn sign that sets such low standards for a growing family.
The point is, people have been taught not to think. If you have to force yourself to accept that the world, contrary to so much evidence, is only 6,000 years old than I suppose it is not at all a stretch to believe that the President is a socialist. And if your Republican friends believe it too than it must be true. Don’t bother to pick up a dictionary and look up the term “socialist” (the dictionary is probably produced by some left-wing atheist publisher anyhow) or ask yourself what it must be like to truly live in a socialist country, or heaven forbid, actually read the health reform initiatives in their original forms, without interpretation. Why is it that the national newspapers are writing at a grade 4-5 level? How is it that so many people don’t know that Africa is a continent, or what “socialist” means or how the scientific method works? How is it that health reporting is so bad that experts now say it is causing more harm than good, and even “reporters” don’t check facts?
How did religion come to trump reason? And most importantly, how do we fix it?