When did knowledge become a four-letter word?

26 07 2016


I remember first being concerned last September when a Presidential candidate, speaking to the “Values Voter Summit” in Washington, DC, boldly, and with way too much pride and arrogance declared, “We will never have smart people on our side!”

I was stunned when I heard it.  “Is that a badge of honor?” I wondered.  If anything, I would think it would be rather disconcerting, especially for someone interested in being the President of the United States of America.   Don’t we WANT smart people to be on our side . . . with us, behind us, supporting us?

Since that time, again and again, many in the media and entertainment industry, politicians and their handlers, and even leaders of the church and other religious institutions, have continued talking about knowledge and education as if they were four letters words – as if being ‘smart’ was something to be shunned, or worse yet, feared.  The ‘educated elite’ as they (we?) are called, are viewed with suspicion, and with an agenda that for some odd reason is not in the best interest of the average American.

Scientific theories, whether on global warming or evolution, are called into question, as if those who have given their lives to study of things we will never fully understand are out to get us, or lead us astray.  Instead, people are quick to embrace those with the loudest voices, those who say what we want to hear, and those who are quick to offer simple answers to life’s most complex questions.

In many circles today, people are no longer looking for wise and informed women and men to lead our country.   People don’t appear to want knowledgeable and astute visionaries setting the course of American’s future, or negotiating with other nations of world in determining the course of our history!   Instead, people are crying out for something else.  You’ve heard it, I’m sure.

“We want people like us running our government!”

“I want someone like me making decisions about my future!”

But sadly, too often, ‘like us’ and ‘like me’ mean little more than uniformed and unaware; and these people, the ‘outsiders’ as they are often called, are frightening!  They have the arrogant audacity to believe that as outsiders, they are the only ones who can solve the problems facing our world; for they are not part of the current ‘system,’ and thus their perspective is the only one we dare trust!

Unfortunately, their ‘perspective’ has been birthed in nothing more than ignorance . . . pure and simple!  And people love it!  They quote Ronald Reagan, repeating his criticism of that ‘intellectual elite in a far distant capital,’ as if the uttering of this ridiculous mantra will somehow justify a person’s admiration of the uninformed or veneration of the ignorant.

Nineteenth century British philosopher Bertrand Russell one said “most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.”  He believed that one of the problems with the world is that “fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves” and that people, are too quick to follow them.

Knowledge is essential for healthy living.  The future of any democracy is dependent upon an educated populace; and wisdom is our world’s only hope.  So let’s stop dumbing down our society by exalting the ignorant.  Let’s stop lifting up those who don’t know how much they don’t know, and instead pay attention to those who have given their lives to the discipline of growing, by learning.  Let’s stop honoring those who regard their being ill-informed as a badge of honor, and push one another toward the transformation that comes with the renewing of our minds.

Knowledge is NOT a four letter word.  So let’s stop living, and voting, as though it is!

Call it whatever you want . . . but it’s racism!

7 07 2016

This morning, I’m not interested in peoples’ politics. I’m not interested in what religion people practice, if they’re from the north or from the south, or whether they consider themselves liberals or conservatives. I’m not interested in whether or not people think the “Black Lives Matter” campaign minimizes the lives of white people, or cops; or if people think that the liberal media’s reporting of the number of Black men being killed by police officers is blowing things out of proportion. I’m certainly not interested in whether or not people believe that it’s political correctness to think that “today, everything seems to be about race!” I don’t care about any of it – your religious affiliation, your political party, your personal opinion about the work of CNN or Fox, or your take on what is or is not ‘politically correct!’ Something is terribly wrong in this country and all of us, regardless of the ideology to which subscribe, need to wake up, open our eyes, and deal with it! Racism abounds in America, and it simply must be addressed – openly, and honestly.

In the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Right Movement shed much needed light on the consequences of 400 years of oppression and injustice in America. And while great strides were made, evil was more driven underground and inward, than eradicated from American society or from the hearts of the American people. That is one of the reasons why it is rearing its ugly head again today, and with great vengeance! Because that is what happens when we suppress deep seeded thoughts, emotions, and feelings, brushing them under the carpet, and pretending that there’s no problem.

The current trend toward an acceptance of racist thinking and ideology – whether the result of the election of our nation’s first Black president, or the realization that within 20 years Caucasians will no longer be the majority in our country – must be named and rejected, by everyone!

Eric Garner, Eric Harris, Freddie Gray . . . and now, in less than 24 hours we have added two more names to the list, Alton Sterling and Philando Castille . . . these are just a few of the Black men killed by police officers in the last three years. And they are just the ones we’ve heard of! In 2015, more than 100 unarmed Blacks were killed by police, five times the rate of unarmed Whites! And that is just wrong!

Regardless of whether or not these people were in ‘white’ neighborhoods looking suspicious in their ‘hoodies’; whether or not they ran away when they saw cops coming; and whether or not they may have even had a weapon on their person (which remember, IS legal in this country!) – such behavior simply does NOT warrant being shot and killed! We can argue all day about the circumstances surrounding these murders, and we might even agree on the inappropriateness of some of the victims’ actions.  We can debate the behavior of the police officers involved, and perhaps even agree on the pressure they are forced to deal with each and every day. But there is absolutely no way to justify the killings. Nothing any of these men and boys did, warranted their death at the hands of the people who were supposed to protect them.

Today, many, perhaps most, will go about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. And therein lies the problem. Nothing out of the ordinary HAS happened. Another Black life has been lost, needlessly. But the fact that has become so ordinary must concern us! It should concern ALL of us. And while I don’t know when or how the system is going to change, I DO know that it has to begin with us. It has to begin with me.

So, today, I am going to recognize and acknowledge my tendency to ‘profile’ those who don’t look like me. I’m going to catch myself doing it, and I’m going to admit it, at least to myself. Then, once I do, I’m going to consciously change my attitude, smile, and speak kindness.

Today, I’m going to try and engage those who don’t look like me in conversation; and I’m going to shut up and listen to what they have to say! I’m going to stop talking long enough to hear THEIR thoughts, THEIR pain, THEIR frustrations, THEIR fear. And I’m not going to judge their words – I’m just going to let them soak in, and marinate my soul.

And today, I’m not going to be afraid to challenge those who express thoughts or ideas that are rooted in privilege, that perpetuate stereotypes, or that deny the seriousness of the problems facing our nation.

So this blog comes as an apology – in advance! If I ‘overreact’ to your Facebook post; if I offend you in person because I challenge something that you say; or if openly disagree with you on a position you take; forgive me! Forgive me taking a stand for what is right. Forgive me for being sick and tired of white America’s ignorance. Forgive me for no longer being willing to accept the status quo, and for believing that America is better than this. Forgive me for not remaining silent while too many of our brothers are being killed needlessly!

Call what’s going on in America today whatever you want. But in the end, it’s all racism. And it’s time for all of us, to acknowledge that, and to do something . . . anything . . . about it!