Are we entering a new age of ignorance?

Published 10:09 am Friday, September 25, 2009

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Is America facing an age of ignorance? A time when our beliefs and convictions of what constitutes truth are so far apart that they cannot logically be reconciled?

Consider the issue of vaccinations. There is a movement in America by some parents to avoid the protection from communicable disease that vaccinations provide.

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In 2005 in Indiana there was a measles outbreak after years of falling vaccination percentages of children. There is a very direct connection between vaccinations and the elimination of childhood diseases like smallpox and measles.

Without vaccinations these defeated diseases that kill and cripple will in fact re-appear and do their worst against our children. So why do parents fail to vaccinate? Ignorance, there is no other explanation.

They may be concerned about religious issues, they may be unconvinced that the diseases will actually re-appear and spread, or they may have heard autism is caused by vaccinations. None of these claims are true.

Examine the phenomena that has occurred in gun sales and ammo purchases in 2009. The FBI reports that background checks for the purchases of guns are up almost 26 percent this year. And ammo shortages have happened across the nation, causing prices to nearly double. Why? Ignorance. Some claim President Barack Obama may take their guns away.

Others argue that ammo will be time dated to become unusable after a year. Yet the Supreme Court recently gave its broadest support to gun ownership, and the President authorized that loaded weapons may be taken into national parks.

And there is no pending federal legislation to restrict gun ownership or use at all.

Or consider the folks who are concerned about providing the information required by the U.S. Census taken every decade.

Some are afraid to give this information because the Democrats may use it to harm them. Yet the census has been part of our information collected almost since the beginning of our republic and has never become a political tool.

And the census is the basis for distribution of over $400 billion dollars of federal dollars collected from the states and returned to the states. So failing to cooperate with the census is illegal and damaging potentially to your community. Why resist the census? Ignorance.

Have you attended a Tea Party tax gathering? If you have do you know that the U.S. currently has one of the lowest tax burdens of the Western democracies?

Do you know that the only tax issue undertaken by the Obama administration has been to cut the taxes on 95 percent of Americans?

At the recent town hall meetings many seniors, concerned about issues, demanded America stop considering “socialized” medicine, while accepting Medicare themselves, a form of socialized medicine.

Jefferson also said, “Information is the currency of democracy.”

But today we have so many sources of information, how can we avoid finding false facts? Jefferson again said, “It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing than to believe what is wrong.”

Today many Americans seek out alternative news, because they do not trust the public media. And what do they find? News that re-enforces their biases, news that has no verification of sources and information.

But, not knowing how to discriminate news sources, people can think they have information when they do not. People can believe wrong when they would be better to believe nothing.

In the Internet Age, ignorance is currency, and its spread is broad and deep. Can democracy survive false facts?

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.