It's Not Bliss For The Rest Of Us

I tried to take advantage of our last bit of sun yesterday, as a weather thing arrives. I know the proper term. I just don’t want to seem like a know-it-all and talk about low-pressure troughs, bringing some rain.

So I did a lot of weeding and mowing, and I listened to podcasts. Podcasts are on my mind this week anyway, as a medium, and I had a backlog. Some of these are interviews with people who seem interesting, and I can listen to those anytime. Most are topical, though, news podcasts or similar, and these days those get out of date pretty quickly.

I’ve got to assume there have always been people fascinated by current events. We’ve been using news junkie for over 40 years, too. It’d be refreshing to find a new term, although I guess that works well enough, considering the compulsive aspect. I back away from the news at different times, including during the day, every day, but soon enough I’m jonesing for a headline fix. I’ve definitely got the junkie gene.

As does my wife, and we were talking about this yesterday. I’d listened to an interview with an author about a new book on foreign policy and modern warfare, although we mostly just chatted about spending an afternoon getting stuff done and at the same time picking up new information. It’s the main selling point of podcasts, for me. We can listen and weed.

We also laughed a bit at the different times during our week when people will try to tell us something new. Our little news-gathering operation here in this household is a well-oiled machine by now, and it’s hard to surprise us.

And there’s a logical reason for this—we don’t watch TV. We don’t, and specifically cable news. I honestly can’t think of a less efficient medium for disseminating information. There are good interviews and reporting and commentary on television, but I still can’t imagine sitting in front of a screen while the news dribbles into my numb brain. For God’s sake. It’s called reading.

And sometimes listening. But only when I’m weeding.

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I don’t necessarily see virtue in this, although I’d rather be informed than not. It’s essentially a habit now, and it doesn’t automatically come with insight or judgment.

It doesn’t make me smarter, for sure, any more than memorizing all 50 state capitols would. I have more information now. I may have no clue what it means.

This is our civic problem, then. It’s not that a bunch of Americans have voted against their own self-interest because they’re cognitively impaired. They may have their reasons. Or, as I suspect, they’re just ignorant.

It’s hard to use that word without it sounding pejorative, which is a shame. We’re all mostly ignorant. We can only hold so much knowledge, and our attention is pulled in a million directions anyway.

For people who are appalled by Donald Trump’s presidency—and if you’re not appalled, you really shouldn’t be reading this blog, because we live in far different realities—there’s probably some comfort in assuming that people who voted for him are stupid. It’s not that comforting to me, and it’s not true.

I mean. A lot of them are probably stupid.

But what I hear and read tells me that people just didn’t pay attention in school, or didn’t have that kind of education, or just don’t know. It’s not new, either, and has nothing to do with Trump and 2016, other than a reality TV star with a foul mouth and a history of really awful personal behavior draws a lot of attention.

It was ignorant attention, and ignorance has always been around. It’s just that now we can see what our friends and family think about politics and current events, and it seems obvious that they don’t know shit.

They only have a vague idea, it seems, about our system of government, our Constitution, the dynamics and interaction between our three branches of government (if they know there are three branches). We can get our underwear all bunched up about this, or we can understand that people have stuff to do. This is not exactly fascinating material. And there’s that Bachelor thing.

Maybe people will pay more attention now. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe it’ll all be fine, but it’s really not helpful to assume people are stupid.

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Georgia Clark is stupid, though. Good lord.

Read the story if you haven’t, if you want. Clark has been an English teacher for over 20 years in the Fort Worth Independent School District. It’s a problematic history. She’s had many complaints over the years, most of them about her feelings about brown people in her classroom.

I know nothing about the problems in this school district. The number and nature of complaints against Ms. Clark suggest to me a run-of-the-mill bigot, but that’s not even the point. We have bigoted people. Some of them will end up teaching our kids. Some will take out our appendix and fix our water leak and process our driver’s license renewal.

The point is, this woman tweeted at the president and assumed her tweets were private. That is, Georgia Clark is an idiot.

Sure, it’d be nice to imagine that people in the teaching profession are all honorable and decent, or at least agree with us most of the time. Some of them are going to be awful people. We can just hope that they’re constrained by rules and norms, or, as I suspect will happen in this case, they cross a line that gets attention and become ex-teachers quickly. (UPDATE: She was fired.)

I just wish I saw more commentary on this. Not that she has a bad attitude or an opinion we disagree with. That she’s too dumb to be a teacher.

Not ignorant, although there’s a bunch of ignorance. Stupid. There’s a difference. I don’t need a podcast to notice that, although now that I think about it, I’d probably enjoy one.

Chuck Sigars1 Comment