We all have heard the recent news about Rep. Todd Akin over the past two days. In an interview, he opined about pregnancies caused by rape:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
This sheer lack of empathy I’ve come to expect from Republicans. Personally, he may be a very nice guy, and he’s probably good to his family. I seriously doubt that he was trying to intentionally hurt rape victims by his comment, so I don’t assume any malice on his part.
What I do assume is pure, unadulterated ignorance. The man is just an ignorant fool. Ignorance, while also unintentional, can be corrected; unlike stupidity, which is terminal. But, like most Republicans in Congress, especially those of the Christian variety, ignorance is their stock in trade. Ignorance, i.e. lack of knowledge, is rampant in their worldview, their politics, their social life and their community. They seem to relish it, grasp it like a talisman, cherish it and advertise it as a token of superiority. It’s not important to them whether their viewpoints are supported by evidence, as long as they comport with their conviction that it should be true.
Why is it that the people we elect to Congress are so woefully uninformed about the ways of the world? Why are they such naifs? What is it about those building blocks of reality, you know, what we tend to call “facts”, that scares them so much they shy away from accumulating them? Why do they embrace beliefs that are so easy to repudiate, and so simple to refute? What is our society failing to do that leads to such a hebetudinous crop of leaders? And why do we, the people that vote for them, do so time after time, on the theory that a dumb leader you can drink a beer with is far more desirable than a well educated, articulate leader that isn’t swayed by superstition and ignorance?
Jeez, a lot of good questions, and I wish I had answers to them. I have a few thoughts, though. I think there are two, complementary, very powerful forces at play here that creates a society of dumb politicians and dumber constituencies.
The first is the corporate climate that, while it does need a limited cadre of very intelligent managers, for the most part needs a much larger contingent of weak-willed, uncritical, subservient workers. Workers who don’t ask questions, who do what they are told, and accept just enough in the way of wages to be able to subsist, but not much more. Workers don’t need to be educated, to hone fine tuned minds capable of analyzing and criticizing, perhaps questioning their leaders. They need just enough intelligence and education to be able to perform repetitive tasks and wipe themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that our American workforce is full of stupid louts. I’m merely saying that our corporate economy and environment encourage a lack of education, and propagates the idea that “smart” is not a necessary attribute to get ahead in the world. So we come to believe that the educated “eggheads” reside in their “ivory towers” , with their minions of geeks and nerds, sneering down on the hard working blue collar providers of wealth in this country. This is the kind of mindset that produces people like Todd Akin who really could care less about facts, as long as he feels and creates a bond with the common people.
The second force that dovetails with the first is the one created by religion. Any system of thought that presumes to have already found the TRUTH, and depends on its adherents to believe that they don’t need to search for it, will be antithetical to an educational system that does more than indoctrinate that truth. The current crop of Republicans all seem to be adherents of the fundamentalist forms of Christianity, which believes that all truth has been delineated in one book – the Bible. So any further education beyond what the Bible claims is patently superfluous, and a waste of time. It’s why science is being attacked in our public schools, with significant pressure to replace it with the pseudo-science of the Christian variety, like creationism museums, and climate change denial.
Republicans like Todd Akin are tools of the corporate class and of their religious superiors. They exist to perpetuate the corporate mentality, and the infallible word of Jesus and service the needs of the 1% and the Prosperity Gospel (those two go hand-in-hand). An educated worldview is not needed to perform that task. So he really doesn’t need to know that rape, for instance, as long as it ends with some form of coitus-non-interruptus, has just as much likelihood of resulting in pregnancy as what he does with his wife in their marital bed. All he needs to know is that the Bible says that abortion is bad (actually it doesn’t - it doesn’t say anything about abortion) so he can confabulate his own set of “facts” to help him rationalize that even rape victims are not part of the abortion-is-bad equation. If raped women can’t get pregnant, because God was good enough to design their uteri to reject all unwanted, forcibly inserted sperm, then he doesn’t have to experience the cognitive dissonance of seeing these women standing in lines for their abortions. They are de-facto bad, with no justification for getting an abortion. Clearly, they must not have been raped, else how could they be pregnant, the skewed, uneducated logic concludes?
So he’s remains comfortably ignorant, and ignorance is bliss!
Personally, I want my political leaders to have some basic understating of how the world works. Actually more than basic. They should have at least a college level understanding of science and medicine, not to mention history, sociology, philosophy and a few other basic disciplines. Clearly, Mr. Akin never got that far. In fact, it’s dubious he was listening when his father had the “birds and bees” talk with him. He may have gone to college, but he was impervious to knowledge.
[EDIT: Case in point.]