A Word in Edgewise: A Little Knowledge is a Very Dangerous Thing

In my youth, I had the idea that being “conservative” was a good trait since it meant looking carefully at data before taking action, while being “liberal” was also good because it meant looking beyond oneself to spread wealth or goods (conservatively) to those without them. I also thought that “intellectual” was a praiseworthy adjective because, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines such an individual, he or she is “a person with a highly developed intellect.” The first two are now polar opposites while the third has been turned–by the GOP in particular–into a pejorative.

Michele Bachmann was widely ridiculed for placing the Revolutionary battles of Lexington and Concord in New Hampshire rather than Massachusetts. That’s an extreme example of un-knowledge of American history, but I fault her more for not checking her facts than for her ignorance. Learned cluelessness turned dangerous, however, when Bachmann–on no clinical evidence–claimed that the HPV vaccine aimed at protecting young women from cervical cancer causes mental retardation.

Is it elitism to be accurate? Like most citizens today, Bachmann has access to Google, but must she must also have a PR staff and a bevy of fact-checkers to vet any speech before she commits it to the airwaves. A snob is anyone overweening and proud of something he or she has that others don’t, and now includes being boastful of immense stupidity as well as possessing a string of advanced degrees. For some reason the GOP has decided that ignorance is a point of pride

Rick Perry’s self-deprecation seems to be aimed at enticing other good ole boys to vote for him, and recently bragged that he was in the top ten of a high school class of 13. Personally, I want a president to be smarter and better informed than I am, or who isn’t afraid to consult advisers and experts who are. Anti- intellectualism doesn’t even jibe with the Biblical description of Man’s relation to the Deity. I can find no scriptural verse declaring “…and Man was created in God’s image – dumber than a sack of hammers.”

There have always been members of society who go about with a “Hey nonny, nonny,” and babbling forth whatever comes into their heads. Back in the day they were considered “village idiots.” Now, they’re hailed as “candidates.”

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