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Civic Ignorance

Just when we think it can’t get any crazier, when there can’t possibly be another trigger point for him to hit, BAM! There he goes again, even lower than before. This time it’s babies being ripped from a mother’s womb. A ghastly description of what could only be a scene from a low budget horror movie. Facts be damned. He’s gonna say whatever the hell he wants to and, lord help us all, there are people who believe him. People who will take his repeated false statements as fact and repeat them over and over on social media sites, adding graphics, creating memes, and misconstruing the issue to a point that no one knows where the truth lies anymore.

As a country, we’re battle weary. We’ve fought against racism, sexism, xenophobia, misogyny, and bullying. Many of us have stood in disbelief as we watched neighbors and friends step out of the darkness to reveal things about themselves that most of us would prefer not to know. A part of us wanted to stay inside our happy bubble singing LaLaLa and seeing only the good in everyone, normally, focusing on the positive and tuning out the negative. Sadly, “normally” hasn’t been around for a while.

For the past year, we’ve had to speak up for immigrants, gays, Muslims, and refugees. We’ve been called to re-evaluate our views on practically every social issue imaginable: Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, Criminal Justice, Gun Control, Abortion…

To explain why it’s wrong for a country founded by immigrants to discriminate against immigrants felt ludicrous, but we did it. Using words like freedom, opportunity, justice, and inclusion, we reminded folks of what it means to be an American. We attempted to calm the paranoid and bring sanity and compassion back to the conversation. We’ve talked of religious freedom and equal rights. We’ve been reminded to “Love thy neighbor as thy self,” that “Black lives matter,” and that “Love is Love.” We’ve defended religions that were not our own in hopes that the sentiment would be reciprocated and mutual acceptance achieved.

We’ve fought against the language of rape culture. We’ve heard audiotape boasting of sexual assault defended by men and women as “guy talk”, “locker room antics”, and “typical boy behavior”. We’ve been told to get over ourselves and stop pretending to be offended by vulgar words. For days, we fought to be heard. It’s NOT the word “pussy” that upsets us! It’s the act of grabbing a woman ANYWHERE without her consent. Many spoke out, no longer allowing the normalization of unacceptable behavior.

Week after week, issue after issue, we’ve armed ourselves with facts and resolved to do our part to discuss and debate respectfully and thoughtfully. We’ve listened, responded, and when necessary, agreed to disagree. This is how democracy works. But lately, like a toddler whose tantrums have not resulted in the attention he was seeking, the outbursts have reached the level of deplorable and I, for one, have no more patience.

We now have a presidential candidate, civically ignorant, spouting lies and spreading unfounded fear. Using innuendo and rumor as if it were fact, to distort records and manipulate the citizenry. Taking quotes out of context to paint false pictures. And as upset as we should be with this behavior, we should be even more upset with the behavior of those who have allowed this to fester. Those who have laid back and been spoon fed by the media and by the church, taking whatever is offered as the gospel, not questioning or inquiring. Allowing those in power to manipulate emotions and thoughts because it’s easier than thinking for our selves.

“I don’t understand, “ is not an excuse. If an issue is important, seek to understand. Reach out to people who have experience and ask questions. Approach things with an open mind and a caring heart, willing to learn and brave enough to allow a paradigm to shift.

If you read a quote that bothers you, research it. And if you discover the quote was taken out of context, imagine how it might feel to be misquoted yourself. Be grateful you aren’t publicly scrutinized and have compassion for those who are.

If you don’t understand the effects of sexual assault because you’ve never experienced it, don’t judge those who have. Refrain from questioning their motive or behavior. Express gratitude for your fortune and compassion for their struggle.

If you don’t understand the how and the why of abortion because you’ve never known someone who faced that decision, don’t condemn what you don’t know. Express gratitude for your innocence and compassion for their pain.

If you don’t understand why it’s important to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter because you aren’t black, don’t condemn those who are angry and frustrated. Express gratitude for your privilege and compassion for their story.

If you don’t understand why some of us are weary and no longer have patience for the conversation, then you aren’t paying attention and that is the reason for our frustration.

For whatever reason, be it laziness, busyness, or ignorance, if you choose not to do a little research and educate yourself on the issues, please refrain from the conversation. You are only serving to lower the overall competence and intelligence of an already shaky population. Our democracy is in danger and civic ignorance is the cause.

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