Rahm, Egypt, and the Culture of Willful Stupidity

When the Appellate Court yanked Rahm from the ballot last week, a friend of mine was outraged.  “That’s bullshit!” he said.  “He’s the best man for the job.”
“Why’s that?” I asked, not necessarily disagreeing, but wanting to hear the answer.
“He just is. He’s gotta get back on. I can’t imagine what would happen to the city if he doesn’t.”

I took the opportunity to remind my friend that, as worked up as he was, he wasn’t even allowed to vote in the mayoral election.
“Why’s that,” he asked, “because I don’t live in Cook County?”
“That’s part of it,” I said.  “More specifically, you don’t actually live in Chicago.”

He verbalized a groundless (because he had no data to support it) opinion about a topic that didn’t have a direct impact on his life. And in doing so, he’s not all that unique.

Popular opinion has a cunning way of driving otherwise-smart people to regurgitate top-line, bullet-pointed, facts
espoused by others without seeking out more information.  It’s a willful ignorance.

It’s easy to get swept up in the zeitgeist, to cannonball off a cliff into the stream of conventional wisdom. Why’s Rahm the best guy for the job?  Well, because he worked in the White House, raised a Bean-full of cash, and everyone else thinks so, that’s why.  Emanuel’s effortlessly charismatic, a much more vibrant personality than Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle, or Carol Moseley Braun.  It’s not hard to see why the masses have been quick to stand behind him.

Is Rahm the best person for the job?  Probably, but my opinion doesn’t matter.  What have you learned about the candidates and how each one can better the city of Chicago?  It’s unrealistic to expect that the majority of voters be conversant in all of the key talking points of the Chicago mayoral election, but I don’t think it’s too much to expect that they’d do some independent research.

And then there’s Egypt.  Put differently, “Holy shit, and then there’s Egypt.”  A few months ago, I made a pledge to myself to be more aware of what was happening in the world at large, and what the impact of those happenings are and can be.  I’d venture to say that 75% of my friends are vaguely aware that something bad’s happening over there, but would stammer and flush if asked to say exactly what.

Admittedly, I’m not exactly the Huffington Post in practice at the moment.  I’ve spent the past 15 minutes volleying comments back and forth with Twitter friends about new movie Superman Henry Cavill.  What’s more, my TV isn’t locked to the 24/7 news nets, it’s set to Ghost Rider on FX (I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t think the movie was that bad).

Despite current distractions, I’ve been following the progress in Egypt with extreme interest.  Tanks rolling down the streets, prison breaks, telecommunications frozen, a nervous Israel pondering the possibility of a post-Mubarak Egypt:  This is serious stuff.  And it’s our shared stupidity that prevents us from adding these developments to our ongoing discourse.

Detachment from global politics is something we Americans are expert at; that is, until those politics directly impact our pocketbook, personal space, or safety.

Willful ignorance.  Stupidity.  It’s Sunday in America.  What’s that?  They’re making a Ghost Rider 2?  Again with Nic Cage?  Hell. Yes.


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