Politics and the Power of Ignorance

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Today, more than ever, ignorance is far from bliss. In my few explorations into social networking I’ve learned a lot about who and how society views American political icons—which, given their knowledge about our system of government, is really quite scary. Whether it’s been the debate over health care reform; or claims that America is now living under socialism, those who are the most ignorant (lacking in knowledge in a subject matter or discipline) are the most dangerous.

Consider the events in the past week alone:

This past Wednesday, while addressing a joint session of Congress, President Obama was heckled by a conservative Congressman (Rep. Joe Wilson) from South Carolina. While the President was outlining how his plan would not apply to undocumented immigrants, he was interrupted by Rep. Wilson’s call of “you lie!” While hoots and hollers came from the gallery as they traditionally do, it was this one line that stuck out—especially as it broke protocol of the House.

This past weekend, thousand of “tea baggers” (pun very well intended) marched on Washington D.C. carrying signs that read, “No taxation without representation” “wake up and smell the socialism” “I love Fox News, not Hitler” “I’m not a right winged extremist, I’m an American with a birth certificate,” and, my favorite, “Impeach Osama.”

There is a direct correlation between these events; as both are predicated on ignorance and disrespect. Let’s consider the two contributing themes:

1) A new level of disconnect and disrespect for office holders is actually being led by office holders; and;
2) the American public (or at least this segment) clearly didn’t pass 8th grade civics as they are very confused about our system of government.

And this is how ignorance becomes a dangerous tool.

I feel it is my duty as someone intimately involved in our system of government to set the record straight and explain our system of checks in balances. Let’s consider the latter first:

If you are against this President and Congress—wait until November of next year and use your power of the vote (unless if you are in California—which seems to have an election every three weeks). Nothing in our Constitution or in electoral politics has changed when it comes to voting. Thus, we are not a socialized nation and remain a Representative Republic. Next, the Federal Elections Commission and the state and county in which Candidate Obama filed election forms confirmed that he is in fact eligible to hold the office of President. Lastly, Medicare, Social Security, SCHIP, and 60 other programs are government agencies. Please stop saying, “I don’t want the government involved in my Medicare.” Please stop “wagging the dog” in order to maintain a political presence. If you want to pick a fight, do so on the issues.

Consider the impact of the current facet of our elected officials including U.S. Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, and the President of the United States.

The political fervor that currently exists in our nation is great if you are a free speech advocate as I am. Even this group of misled countrymen has exhibited a right guaranteed under our Constitution—but the irony is they think it no longer exists! The constant party bickering; the 24-hour cable-news horse race; and the fact that a few bad politicians have brought shame to the office(s) have created a culture of disrespect for those that replaced them.

One of President Obama’s campaign promises was to restore integrity to the office of the Presidency. President Bush campaigned on the same thing, as did President Clinton, President Bush, and each office holder back to Nixon. Why has this priority been at the top of the agenda for better part of 30 years? Because in the U.S. elected officials are viewed as politicians, not as office holders. Rep. Wilson confirmed this first in his actions on Wednesday night and subsequently with his continued accusatory actions to Members of Congress and the administration.

For more than a decade now, I’ve worked alongside at least 15 different elected officials. Most of them consider their duties to be serving their constituents and the American public, not their political party. Sure, they are Democrats and Republicans—but they are Americans first. In several conversations with both Democrats and Republicans, almost all of them showed respect for their colleagues; even if they didn’t on camera. The bottom line is that continuing to distract Americans from the issues at hand only spreads the disconnect and breeds ignorance.

I am not insisting that the government should be trusted at all times. Nor am I claiming that our leaders do not need watchdog agencies or to be held accountable [far from it].

But I am suggesting that displaying a blunt disrespect for the office holder leads to distraction from the issues and spreads rumors and lies that only proliferate hatred and anger for the opposition. This then perpetuates the disconnect and places the ignoramuses in control of the agenda. Rep. Wilson’s actions—whether he knows this or not—are exploiting this disconnect.

I clearly do not agree with these protestors. I clearly do not agree with Congressman Wilson. However, I will respect their right to protest and to have a difference of opinion. But ALL parties, Democrat and Republican, Fox News and MSNBC, lefties and righties, and everyone in between, needs to start to respect the office. We do not have to agree, we do not have to like the person sworn in, but if we do not respect the office and position then we do not respect our freedoms, our values, and our system of government that the protestors so vociferously claim to protect.

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