Regardless of who “wins” and who “loses” the election, can there be any doubt that the results will end the country’s slow downward slide… and send it plunging headlong toward disaster of the sort and scale that the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, must have foreseen when he admonished the citizenry, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
But “know nothingism” apparently knows no boundaries, either. In the current election, in the face of complexity, interconnectedness, and uncertainty, each of which has increased to levels that would dwarf what pressured Lincoln, many citizens are taking irresponsible comfort in the certainty that can only come with a “no questions zone” approach. That is the intellectual equivalent of closing one’s eyes, covering one’s ears, and shouting loudly, “la-la-la-la”.
Among such citizens, knowledge is disqualifying. Rather than “smarting up”—which usually takes thinking and can require effort—they dumb-down problems, then confidently oversimplify them away. And no, Toto, we can’t bring ourselves back to Kansas, no matter how much we assure each other that we never left it.
Life would be much easier if saying something really would make it so. But we can’t enjoy our I-Pods and our “[wo]man up” war toys in all their glory without also accepting the complexity, interconnectedness, and uncertainty that have come to be integral to making them, having them, and keeping them.
What to do? For those who still don’t see “Just Say No” in any of its manifestations as a viable strategy, may I suggest a National Day of Pouring for the day after this election? Pouring stiff drinks, that is. It may not be much; but it may be the only thing a lot of us will be able to agree on—and, of course, we could still scream at each other about what we should be drinking.
Robert A. Letcher, PhD
Robert A. Letcher, Ph.D describes himself as “an academic with a disability instead of a portfolio, a writer, and a Qigong practitioner who tries to help people learn”.