The definitive source of this quote is unknown, although it often is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. To me, it doesn’t matter who said it. The message that ignorance is often willful remains loud and clear, regardless of the original author. And it is perfectly exemplified by the nonsense that has spewed from the Trump campaign, in particular from his spokesperson, Katrina Pierson.
An exchange happened about a week ago at one of Donald Trump’s rallies between the champion of making America great again himself and a female audience member. For myself, it has come to symbolize everything wrong with Trump, his followers, and the state of stupid in this country.
As seen in the Youtube clip below, during a Q&A session a woman asks Trump why we’re not putting military retirees on the border or perhaps to work for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA,) and in the process, getting rid of all of those “hibeejabis” they wear there.
In case you are wondering what the fuck “hibeejabis” are or what this person is talking about, she is referring to hijabs, the traditional headscarves that those Mooslim women wear, and I guess the fact that she has seen people wear them at the TSA.
It has become difficult for me to decide what part of this exchange is more problematic – the bigoted, xenophobic anti-Muslim sentiment or the flat-out ignorance on the part of the woman…Or Trump’s failure to correct the embarrassingly incorrect name that was used or the anti-Muslim sentiment behind the question, and simply answer by saying “we are looking at that….we’re looking at a lot of things,” which not only fails to really say anything (which is nothing new for Trump,) but also reinforces the ignorance and bigotry.
It has become abundantly clear to me that Donald Trump and his campaign have offered up and fed upon the xenophobic and racist anger of many working class and poor Americans that feel resentment of “the others” (as in minorities,) in particular brown people such as Mexicans and Muslims, who are seen as people to fear and the source of America’s problems. Oh sure, supporters of Trump will offer up all sorts of excuses for his bigotry, but I think any reasonable person would have to be wearing massive blinders to not see the glaring, ugly truth at this point.
And all of that is obviously disconcerting, but none of it surprises me. I have been awake to the fact that America is still a very racist nation for a long time. Racism from whites directed at minorities, to racism from minorities to other minorities, to that of some minorities toward whites – take your pick, it’s there. What’s particularly insidious about the Trump campaign, though, is that he has the support of a pretty formidable voting block (white people.) While racism and xenophobia can emanate from a variety of demographics, it has more institutional and social influence when it comes from the dominant population.
But perhaps what may be more unsettling is the extreme stupidity of it all, which is allowed to pass, by Trump and the crowd as if it is completely normal and okay. The rise of news media outlets like Fox News around twenty years ago was reflective of a growing trend in America away from things like facts and towards blatant bias and ignorance, which has only seemed to have metastasized among disgruntled right-wingers since then. Maybe Trump didn’t see fit to correct the woman, or maybe he didn’t want to alienate his xenophobic base or appear to be too “politically correct” or “elitist.” Or maybe he is simply not that smart or doesn’t want to appear to be so. And this is what we’ve got, people. Isn’t it sad that having an education and not being ignorant is now seen as elitist by a lot of people? People that vote? Can you picture someone like JFK or any of the other notable past presidents fielding and responding to such a question in the same manner?
The late George Carlin mused about the sad status of intelligence in America often. I can’t imagine what he would say about Trump’s candidacy if he were alive today.
Look, not everyone is going to be a rocket scientist. People need to do the best with what they’ve got. But this is willful ignorance. Meaning, this person probably has the mental capacity to see the error of their ways if they would only bother to actually read something or do any kind of analytical fact-seeking, but it’s a culture of laziness and mediocrity that has infected this country for years. And regarding Trump’s response, shouldn’t someone who is trying to be the president of the United States him/herself be, or at least aspire to be, intelligent or at least smarter than the average person? Don’t you want your president to be smarter than you are? I do. If America elects Trump, we truly deserve him. As Carlin has also pointed out, if you have ignorant, selfish citizens, you’re going to end up with ignorant, selfish leaders. That has probably never resonated more truthfully than with Trump’s candidacy.
Donald Trump photo By Marc Nozell – https://www.flickr.com/photos/marcn/24622320840/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46901376