As I watch more and more coverage from media outlets of interviews with “average Americans” giving “their opinions” I become less believing of the common political and media mantra of the intelligence of the average American. While there are many Americans who are politically, financially, and socially savvy, there is also a large number who are not. My question is, “Are all opinions of equal value?”
An example would be a major medical operation, is my opinion as layman of the same value as that of say a neurosurgeon? Is an uninformed, illogical opinion of equal worth as someone who has spent years studying, reading, and researching an issue? I believe there are three categories of thought in this country and most of us fit into some combination of the three.
- There is the category of critical thinkers who research and study a broad range of issues. This group not only seeks information that reinforces currently held beliefs but also information that challenges these beliefs. This group is not led by a personality but by the pursuit of information wherever it may lead them.
- The next category is the group that is ignorant (they don’t know something) and blissfully so. They don’t hold any concrete ideological views. This group is content to be ignorant but entertained. They will seek information only when it is relevant to something going on in their lives at that moment. This group is not led by any personality per se, but by the media or entertainers. They gain much of “their opinions” from television dramas, sit-coms, and shows like Oprah, Entertainment Tonight, etc.
- The final category is the group who is also ignorant (they don’t know things) and are opposed to learning them. They chant with pride we don’t know anything and we don’t want to know anything. This group is anti-information that does not reinforce their currently held positions. This group is led by personalities like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.
One of our greatest strengths as a nation is our defense of the individual. One of our greatest weaknesses as a nation is the elevation of the individual over the group. I don’t believe people around the world are smarter than we are, but are raised in a different culture. Many of them are raised in a culture that understands the need that sometimes the group’s survival trumps the individual. They appear to have a better understanding of their place in the world. There are many in this country that still believe in a certain manifest destiny that we have somehow been selected by some supreme being to rule the world and if anyone disagrees with our world vision then damn them. It is this attitude that has made nations that were once allies, now foes. It is this belief that allowed George W. to declare that God had chosen him to be President and so many people never batted an eye.
As our new President accepts the Nobel Peace Prize I hope we all remember that he does not have the accomplishments of some past recipients, but he is still our President. We should all feel a sense of national pride that the rest of the world thinks enough of him to give him such a great honor. If I am at a game and as an American I am cheering for a team and I look to my right and see Hamas wearing the same jersey I am and I look to my left and see al Qaeda wearing the same jersey I am wearing you would think maybe I would begin to wonder if I am cheering for the wrong team. But that’s just my opinion and we all know that opinions are like buttholes, everybody has one and most of them stink!
"Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped." - Elbert Hubbard