People screaming at and spitting on African Americans who dared to enroll in all-white schools.Â People screaming at and spitting on “hippies” or “longhairs” who opposed the war in Vietnam (and despite all the mythology to the contrary, it was more likely an antiwar demonstrator who’d be spat upon than a returning soldier).Â The people who were active in the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement were advocates for change.Â Positive change, in both cases.Â The people who wanted the status quo or even a regression to some kind of mythological Golden Age were enraged.
But this kind of fury against progress and change has a long history in the USA.Â Many of the people who were early settlers came here so they could maintain their own status quo rather than deal with progress and change in their countries of origin.Â There were plenty of people who lived in the American Colonies who wanted no part of those rascally upstarts who wrote that treasonous Declaration of Independence.Â The Know-Nothing party had plenty of adherents in the 19th century.Â The people who rabidly opposed allowing women to vote spewed plenty of rhetoric across the pages of newspapers, and any internet search will turn up plenty–and the sentiments expressed against giving women the vote are nearly identical to the ones expressed against gay marriage in this century.
And now we have our own generation of militant ignoramuses, who are bound and determined not to allow their children to be anything but militantly ignorant in their turn.
It makes me sad, and it makes me sick.Â Yes, the country got past all those other status-quo screamers, and human progress was not stalled forever, but it shouldn’t be that way.
Our children need to know more than we know.Â And we can never assert we already know all we need to know.Â About anything. There are always facts to be checked and new things to be learned.
At the end of 2007, I wrote a series called “Ten Ways to Take a Stand Against Ignorance.” Little did I know at the time that it would become ever more relevant as the focus on militant ignorance increased. I’m proud of what I wrote then, and I think it’s worth repeating now. Take a look. Tell me what you think.