When Ignorance Is Not Bliss
By Jonathan T. Jefferson
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Edmund Burke
The above statement was said in different ways with the same meaning by a few intellectuals throughout history. It came to mind recently on two fronts; politics and sports. Keep this in mind as you read my essay: air travel is the safest form of transportation; highly publicized plane accidents do not change this fact. “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” Adolf Hitler.
Those who are prone to bigotry have found a standard bearer in Donald Trump. He railed against Mexican immigrants claiming that they are violent criminals, promising to deport eleven million of them, and planning to build a wall to keep them out. His supporters, even those living in Texas, cheer Trump’s position, and boldly proclaim that Mexicans should go back to their own country. Maybe those Texans did not benefit from excellent history teachers. If they had, they would be aware that Texas belonged to Mexico prior to the Mexican-American War (1846-1847); furthermore, I have never heard a Native American tell anyone to go back to their ancestral home.
After the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, Donald Trump suggested banning all Muslims from entering the United States. Timothy McVey was not Muslim when he bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that took the lives of 168 people on April 19, 1995. It was not armed Muslims who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon on January 2, 2016. In fact, the leading scorer in NBA history, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, is Muslim. Once the most popular man in the world, Muhammad Ali, took on the legality and merits of the military draft on behalf of all Americans. Doing so caused him to sacrifice nearly four years of competition while in his prime. Of course, let us not forget about the Muslim men and women bravely serving in our armed forces.
Too often young people are oblivious to history. In 1996 NBA star Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal (age 24) asked his Olympic team coach, Lenny Wilkens, if he ever played in the NBA. Shaq was unaware that Lenny Wilkens is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and was honored as one of the top 50 players in NBA history. Shaq’s more knowledgeable Olympic teammates found this amusing.
There are times when young adults make statements out of ignorance that are inflammatory. Cam Newton (age 26), the quarterback for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, and this past season’s NFL MVP, said the following, “I’m an African American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing they can compare me to.” This comment can be construed as offensive to those of us who have been watching NFL games long before Cam Newton was born. We observed talented and athletic African American quarterbacks including Warren Moon, Steve McNair, Randall Cunningham, and Donovan McNabb among them. Cam also ignored a contemporary of his, Russell Wilson (age 27). Russell Wilson has played in two Super Bowls, and won a championship ring at age 25.
Yes, there are times when “ignorance is bliss.” Do fathers want to know about everything their daughters do in college? Do any of us really want to know everything about our neighbors? More often than not, ignorance is not bliss; it’s just ignorant.