I am old enough to remember the days when what Americans were told to fear most was "Creeping Communism."
There were even hearings. There was a blacklist. There were arrests and even a couple of executions.
In the end all communism turned out to be creeping toward was its own extinction.
We may not be as lucky with the new creep we're facing today: Creeping Ignorance.
As a story from AlterNet put it, "3/4ths of Senate GOP Doesn't Believe in Science: The Tea Party and its allies had made it unacceptable to the GOP base to be anywhere except pandering to the anti-science crowd." (Full Story)
The Right, which hated and feared commies and their (largely imaginary) infiltration into government, not only don't seem to care about creeping ignorance in government, but have come to embrace this new breed of government infiltrators.
The explanation for this embrace is simple as the minds of the infiltrators: science, and for that matter any other factual analysis, tends to flatly contradict many of the Right's most cherished fictions, such as:
- The more you cut taxes the more tax revenue flows into federal coffers.
- History proves America is a Christian nation.
- Climate change is either not happening at all or, if it is happening, it has nothing to do with our use of fossil fuels. ("I personally believe that the solar flares are more responsible for climatic cycles than anything that human beings do. ..." - Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin)
- Slashing regulation of business and high finance is good for business, good for the nation and good for the American public.
- If the rich are allowed to keep more of their earnings they will share it with everyone else, (trickle down.)
- School science classes should be "fair and balanced," like Fox News, when teaching the origins of life on earth by teaching the biblically-inspired "creationist" version alongside Darwin's scientific theory of evolution.
- President Obama "may not have been born in America" as he claims.
- President Obama is "a secret Muslim."
And the list of Creeping Ignorance goes on and on, growing longer with each passing month. Michelle Bachmann believes that the founding fathers "didn't rest until the put an need to slavery." She also believes the first shot "heard around the world" that started our war of independence was fired in New Hampshire. It wasn't. Did she care? Nope. Pointing out that it was fired in Massachusetts was, to her and her kind, just further proof of how the mainstream media picks on conservatives.
So, where are the hearings on Creeping Ignorance in the halls of Congress? I mean, I remember the time, not so long ago, when it was held as a matter of national policy that "a mind is a terrible thing to lose." It seems to me it's reached epidemic levels in federal and state government. Shouldn't someone hold hearings? Isn't wanton ignorance among those we trust with nuclear policies, war, famine, jobs, the national debt and more, a concern?
If there were hearings they could begin by taking a page from the popular Jeopardy quiz show:
Question: "They were the first major documents enshrining human rights since the Magna Carta."
Answer: "What's the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights?"
Question: "The US Civil War was fought over it."
Answer: "What was slavery?"
Question: "A process used by researchers to prove theories."
Answer: "What is the scientific method?"
Suspects should put under oath and asked directly:
"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of any group that believes, or claims to believe, such things as that the US government was behind the 911 attacks or that President Obama was born in Kenya?"
And so on. Each suspect would be grilled until it could be established that this member of Congress was or wasn't a certified ignoramus.
Now, I'm plenty glad that Creeping Communism turned out to be a -- excuse the pun -- red herring. But I am not at all convinced that Creeping Ignorance will be as benign a threat to the US.
For the nation that has, for a couple of centuries, been not only a beacon of freedom, but also a beacon of knowledge and science, Creeping Ignorance at the heart of our government threatens to turn us into a nation only Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, et al., could love: one big festival of stupidity.