Ignorance is Bliss

There is a popular saying that “ignorance is bliss”. That may be true, but only for the ignorant. We may be on the verge of finding out just how non-blissful ignorance can be for the rest of us.

We have for the first time in our nation’s history, a candidate put forth by a major party who is the very epitome of ignorance. Mr. Trump has raised ignorance to an art form, almost a badge of honor. And he has succeeded in gathering together a flock of the ignorant to support him.

I can feel the hackles rising on Mr. Trump’s supporters now as they read this, bristling at me for identifying them as “ignorant”.

Well, that’s because they are ignorant of what the word ignorant means. By itself, in its classical definition, ignorance is not something insulting. It merely means that the person in a state of ignorance is unaware of certain facts. For example, consider the young lady who is ignorant of the fact that her boyfriend is cheating on her. She can be made aware of his infidelity, and thus cured of her ignorance. The popular saying comes from the thought that she was happy in her ignorance. Once exposed to the truth, she is no longer ignorant, but alas, no longer happy.

The problem is not with ignorance, which can be cured. The problem is with willful ignorance. Willful ignorance is when the young lady in question is presented with the facts, but refuses to accept them. If friends tell her of her boyfriends behavior, she does not believe them, and may even go so far as to break off the friendship. Even if provided with video tape, she still refuses to believe that her boyfriend could do that to her.

That is the state of the Trump supporter today, and it is sad to believe that 39% of Americans are that ignorant.  But what is more worrisome, is the ignorance of the candidate himself.

Mr. Trump has displayed his ignorance on a daily basis. He has shown that he is ignorant on foreign affairs, he is ignorant on the global economy, he is ignorant of military matters, ignorant of the issues facing the poor, and even ignorant of the limits and responsibilities of the job for which he campaigns. Even worse, he appears to be ignorant of his own ignorance. For example, I am ignorant of many things. But I am aware of my ignorance, or to paraphrase Socrates,  “I know that I don’t know shite“. Accepting that you do not know everything gives you the ability to learn and grow.

Mr. Trump, however, seems to believe that he already knows everything, and does not need any new information. His own staff complain that they cannot get him to follow strategy, unless they trick him into thinking it was his idea. His debate prep team said he was completely disinterested and bored with the process, he rejected any information they were trying to give him. He continues to complain about the Central Park 5, even though DNA evidence proved their innocence. He insisted in the second debate he never said “check out the sex tape”, in spite of the existence of his mean girl tweet. His ego is so large and so fragile, he cannot accept that he is wrong about anything, or that there is anything of value that anyone else can teach him.

In a human being, this is a sad characterisitic. In a President, it would be extremely dangerous. This is what worries me the most about a possible Trump presidency. I’m willing to ignore all of the racist and misogynistic statements (and they are Legion), all of the accusations of groping, even that he doesn’t pay taxes.

What should really disqualify him in the minds of the voters is that he has no qualifications for the job – in fact, he is ignorant of what the job is!

For example: he has repeatedly said that Day One, he will repeal “Obamacare”. He has emphatically stated that it will be gone, Day One, that’s it. Promising of course to replace it with “something terrific”. Let’s ignore what that would mean if he were to do this. Forget about 24 million people or more suddenly without health insurance, people who may already be under medical care, and forget about the economic upheaval a sudden change like that might cause.

Mr. Trump and his supporters are ignorant of the fact that he cannot repeal the law! The President does not have the power to repeal the Affordable Care Act by fiat. To repeal the law would require Republican control of the House, Senate, and White House. At this point, it seems unlikely the Senate control will stay in the hands of the Republicans.

Another example, taken from the debates, where his ignorance was so proudly displayed. Mr. Trump seems to believe he can “throw out our trade deals”, and once again, “replace them with something terrific!”

To use Mr. Trump’s favorite debate argument, “Wrong!”

Once a treaty is enacted, it is considered the law of the land. Contrary to Mr. Trump’s beliefs, the President is not above the law. It takes an act of congress to modify treaties. Mr. Trump would indeed have the power to negotiate treaties (assuming any country would trust him after he flatly refused to honor existing treaties), but it would still have to be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate to become law.

Meanwhile, can you imagine the disruption to the global economy if he could dismiss all trade agreements? Think of the money lost during renegotiations, the jobs lost by truckers and shippers, manufacturers unable to get raw materials, the cost of re-directing shipments already in transit – all things about which Mr. Trump seems ignorant.

I could go on, since the debates and Mr. Trump’s speeches have exposed his ignorance of foreign affairs, geopolitical realities, even current crime statistics. It is his ignorance of the job itself that seems the strangest to me. It is as if he believes he is running for Dictator, not Commander-in-Chief. Or maybe he thinks he will be Bully-in-Chief?

That might be closer. “Ignorant bully” are the two words that seem to describe him best.

Now I am not ignorant of the flaws of Secretary Clinton. I’ll admit I reject the notion that she has murdered or arranged the murder of people who got in her way, I don’t believe she has a lesbian lover, or any of the other popular Internet rumors. I do accept that she made bad decisions in her email server decisions (although she was not the first), I do believe there are some potentially shady things associated with the Clinton Foundation, and I think her convictions are mainly for political expediency, not from deeply held beliefs. As I’ve said before, I am not a fan, and would have preferred a number of other candidates, both Democrat and Republican,

But I have never felt that she is ignorant of the facts and data required to run the country. Cold and calculating, yes, certainly. But ignorant? Not even close.

Hopefully, we may never find out just how bad the ignorance of Mr. Trump could hurt our country as President. But I fear he may do a lot of harm even in losing.

Anything can happen in this crazy election cycle. After all, a week ago who would have thought that a bunch of emails Hillary Clinton did not send or receive would be the focus, when her opponent has never released his taxes, has a trial for fraud coming up this month, a hearing on a rape charge in December, and 73 other pending litigations?

But it looks like although the national polls are tightening up, Secretary Clinton still shows the advantage in electoral votes. Currently, if she only wins in the states where she has a 5% lead or better, she will break the 270 mark. Any swing state at all just pads the lead.

I’m not too worried about that, it is the thought that the popular vote may be very close. In fact we may have a situation that has happened only four times in our nation’s history, most recently with George W. Bush, where a president loses the popular vote but wins the election.

That’s the scenario that gives me the willies. I’m not worried about the Trump supporters screaming armed revolution, for 99% of them that’s just bluster. Likewise all of the “I’m leaving the country” threats (on both sides) are bullshit – I live in another country, I know most people have no idea what they are talking about, and don’t have the means or determination to live abroad.

But in the dark of night, I picture a certain orange whiney man-baby, loudly proclaiming on Trump TV that his election was stolen, he’s the real winner, demanding recounts, demanding probes, etc., etc.

If you think this campaign season has been divisive (and it has), can you imagine how much damage to national unity, democracy, and any hope of progressive change that kind of conflict could cause?

Here’s hoping we remaining blissfully ignorant of such a future.