So many things that aren’t so
“It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.” Ronald Reagan
President Reagan was very good with a quip. It didn’t matter if the quip was true; he had the perfect timing and facial expressions of a trained actor, so people listened. He didn’t have to know what he was actually talking about; he just had to sound confident. With Reagan, superficial sound bites trumped substance.
Modern Republicans are following his lead. They shoot off one-liners and bumper sticker slogans and think they are clever. Reality is irrelevant. Solid research and hard facts are unimportant; ignorance is celebrated and mocking actual authorities is crucial. Keeping their followers uninformed is essential.
A perfect example of this is a recent LVN column on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The author didn’t seem to know the difference between cross-breeding, which involves related species, and genetic modification, which involves entirely unrelated species. Cross-breeding has given us improved beef and prettier apples and new varieties of vegetables. These processes are millennia old and are well-proven.
Genetic modification, on the other hand, is the process of inserting foreign genes into an organism, such as spider genes inserted into goats to produce milk with proteins stronger than Kevlar, for industrial use. Or tomatoes injected with pig genes, as described in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2004; eating such tomatoes violates dietary laws for Orthodox Jews, so this is a serious issue. Or rice plants injected with human genes, something that would never occur in nature. (Talk about a mixed marriage!) These are just a few examples of what is currently being done.
Because there is no way to tell by looking if foreign genes have been inserted into our foodstuffs, GMOs are forbidden in much of the world. Where they aren’t forbidden, clear labeling is required so consumers know exactly what they are buying. The U.S. is one of the few countries where no labeling is required. When I buy rice, the package should be labeled so I know whether the rice has human genes or not. If I don’t mind human genes, fine, although it sounds extremely creepy. But I should have the choice. Why do Republicans object to that? Hint: follow the money.
GMOs are not the only issue where Republicans want to bamboozle people. On June 16, Pope Francis released an encyclical letter on the moral issues associated with climate change. In anticipation, on June 1, presidential candidate and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R- Pa, displayed his ignorance by saying, “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science. We probably are better off leaving science to the scientists, and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality … we’re better off sticking to the things that are really the core teachings of the Church as opposed to getting into whatever issue is popular at the time.”
Of course, one of the core teachings of the church is good stewardship of the earth God gave us. Pope Francis has a chemistry background, so he speaks as someone with knowledge of science. Santorum is speaking from a position of willful ignorance, since I’m assuming he’s smart enough to look up the facts about global warming. But once again, Republicans would rather ignore facts, no matter the consequences.
Our military has named climate change as one of the most serious national security issues facing the world. Just one example: Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, the biggest navy base in the world, is becoming submerged due to rising ocean waters, a consequence of climate change. What are Republicans planning to do when Norfolk becomes useless? Do we build a new incredibly expensive base? They have no answers, just more ignorance.
Republicans make a fetish of saying, “I am not a scientist, but…” They then proceed to make policy based on their admitted ignorance, of which they are proud. They refuse to research actual facts and talk to actual experts. They would rather listen to Big Oil and Big Agra and write policy based on their biased studies.
A more accurate paraphrase of Reagan’s comment would be, “It isn’t so much that conservatives are ignorant. It’s just that they choose to ignore so many things that are so, in order to promote their political agenda.” That willful ignorance is dangerous for us all. That’s not a partisan statement; that’s just a fact. And those are, sadly, in short supply where Republican policies are concerned.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.