“He’s an Arab,” claimed the elderly woman.
“No, no ma’am,” replied John McCain, “he’s [Barack Obama] a decent family man, citizen, with whom I happen to have some disagreements.”
Normally, I laugh at practically everything I see on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. However, after witnessing this conversation, neither I nor Jon was amused. He stared into the camera with an incredulous “you cannot be serious” look on his face and I stared at the television right back at him. My dad, who was sitting on the futon next to me, grumbled something about “how many stupid people there are in the world.” The sadness of this situation was that the woman likely was not stupid, just ignorant.
This brief encounter was a microcosm of a significant problem faced by the world today. Not only was the ignorance of this woman on full display, but when John McCain was presented with a chance to correct this lack of information, he only misdirected it. He clarified that Obama was in fact not Arabic, but he then implied that Arabs are not “decent”. He reinforced an idea that was born from ignorance. If ignorance such as this is allowed to exist in the world’s most developed country, one can only imagine how it is in other less information rich nations. Action must be taken to rectify this situation.
Long ago, Socrates is credited with saying, “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.” Certainly there is more to good and evil than knowledge and ignorance. There have been well informed evil doers, Adolf Hitler for example, along with oblivious heroes, similar to C-3PO in the Star Wars saga. However, more often than not, Socrates is right. Many of the atrocities and injustices in the world stem from a lack of knowledge. One of the most horrific episodes in the history of mankind, the Holocaust, was a result of ignorance. In some cases it is a chosen ignorance, but that behavior is only demonstrated by the truly evil, i.e. Joseph Stalin. I believe that as human beings we are responsible for fighting ignorance across the globe.
When I say this, I do not mean ignorance in a theological or societal sense that has been used as support for imperialistic ventures in the past. I believe that ignorance must be eradicated so that it cannot be used as a tool to prey upon those who are ignorant. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “Fear always springs from ignorance.” This past presidential election was full of examples of this. Ignorance was used to incite fear amongst voters that Barack Obama was a Muslim because his middle name is Hussein. Ignorance is the basis for the belief among many Americans that all Muslims are terrorists. Ignorance is what led that misinformed woman to embarrass herself on national television. This ignorance provides miscreants with a fertile field in which to plant seeds of falsity and fear.
To combat this abuse of the ignorant, those who possess knowledge must be vigilant. We must share our knowledge and end ignorance in the world. As Margaret Fuller said, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” I believe that as human beings, we must extend our candles out to light the way for those who are shrouded in the darkness of ignorance.
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