There’s this crazy lady at work. I’ll call her “Agnes” even though that’s not her real name. Agnes is about sixty years old, and is a recent migrant from upstate New York.
Agnes is all about gloom and doom, and can convince you that the most benign ailment or medication will undoubtedly be fatal. She also has an (ill-informed) opinion on nearly everything, and loves to rant, on subjects ranging from the natural superiority of northerners over southerners to the way that lazy immigrants or assorted minorities all try to get something for nothing. Of course, she uses cloaked terminology to show that she’s no racist. Interestingly, she also never hesitates to pad her own time card when the opportunity arises, but that’s another story, I guess.
Yesterday, Agnes was in a political mood. Somehow, we got on the subject of the national drinking age. Agnes, interestingly enough, believed that 18-year-olds should be allowed to buy alcohol, and I agree. However, Agnes doesn’t think they should be allowed to vote. Her rationale? They haven’t had time to learn how hard their parents had to work to earn money and they “don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground”. They need, she asserts, to experience the “real world”.
No, I didn’t really get the connection, either.
Ignorance is most definitely not limited to the young. And most 18-year-olds spend those essential years between 18 and 20 in college — not exactly the “real world” by Agnes’ standards nor anyone else’s. I’m also unaware of any Constitutional requirement that voters exhibit any particular level of financial maturity. There’s certainly no similar requirement that the candidates exhibit such maturity.
When I pressed, Agnes went into a tirade about all the problems Clinton caused when he “allowed all the 18-year-olds to vote back in the 1990s”. I calmly informed her that (a) an American President does not have the power to “allow” anyone to vote or not vote, (b) that a Constitutional amendment was required to change the voting age, and (c) that this amendment had been passed in 1971, two decades prior to the Clinton administration. Apparently, I knew more about the Constitution at age 18 than she knows at age 60. Sort of throws her argument out the window, doesn’t it?
I mention this not because Agnes is a blowhard and a bit of an idiot, which she is. I mention it because her lack of knowledge about how government works and her complete absence of critical thinking skills are, alas, not particularly uncommon. Like so many people who don’t want to engage in intellectual exercise, she believes what she believes no matter how faulty her premises. Facts are not going to change her mind. Clinton is the antichrist. Immigrants are evil drains on our economy, language, and culture. No one is “allowed” any fundamental liberty she finds distasteful — but no one better deny her right to do anything, since all her personal pursuits are completely pure and moral. Agnes prides herself on being patriotic, but she doesn’t know a damned thing about the Constitution, and probably has never even read it. Flag-waving nationalism and a little bit of dogma with a Bill O’Reilly chaser is apparently enough for her.
Unfortunately, Agnes is America: intellectually lazy, uninformed, and too willing to be told what to think. I don’t say this because her views are “conservative.” There are just as many, if not more, left-leaning lemmings about (witness San Francisco). In fact, I’d argue that a majority of the most vocally opinionated folks in the country have absolutely no intellectual basis for most of their very closely-held opinions. It’s a lot easier, after all, not having to do the work of thinking for yourself, and never stopping to ponder why you believe something.
Most people take the easy way out. Give them an “Obama is a Muslim terrorist” email message, or a “Proctor and Gamble is owned by devil worshippers” form letter and most will either not care or just be too fucking stupid or ignorant to evaluate the source and context. And most politicians are quite aware of this. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?