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If Ignorance is Bliss…

A few days after last week’s primary, I listened to two folks on downtown’s Riverwalk speak about Mitt Romney. One said, “He got a happy look, but he still don’t look too bright.” The other said, “This is America, dummy. Some of us is born ignerent, but anybody can git ‘lected to it.”

I wanted to offer Thomas Gray’s quote about ignorance being bliss, but remembered what Will Rogers said: “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.”

I continued walking, admiring the beauty of the day: 70 degrees, low humidity, Carolina-blue sky. Nothing could be finer. I was glad to be here. “Here” beats the heck out of most “theres,” including anywhere in Afghanistan or that lifeless rock that made headlines last week, the “Super Earth.”

I bathed in the sun across from the Battleship’s eyes, drawn to the swirling currents of the Cape Fear. There came a low rumble in the distance. In a few moments, two humming beasts of prey glided leisurely southwest along the river. I nodded salutation to the Marine Cobras crew, silently gave thanks they weren’t hunting me, hoping they fulfilled their duty to protect the Constitution without taking or giving anyone’s life or limb.

After they passed the Battleship, I turned my gaze back to the unperturbed swirls of the river. Tom Waits sang: “Misery is the river of the world.” If he was right, ignorance is its main current. Sometimes when I hear politicians say, “My opponent is out of touch with mainstream America,” I translate it: “He ain’t ignerent.”

Those of us disappointed at the passage of Amendment One might remember both Will Rogers and Gray’s thoughts on ignorance. Many friends expressed outrage, anger, disgust at the outcome. Understandable. A lot also expressed surprise.

Surprise? Seriously?

The vote was placed on a predictably low-turnout spring ballot, every pre-election poll predicted passage, and polling stations were allowed to be placed in 11 local churches, in the buckle of the Bible Belt. It’s sad enough we tolerate cops and churches in public schools but polling places in churches? In 21st Century America? For god’s sake!

Me? I figure breath, death and ignorance unite us all. I’m pretty smart, even when I’m being abused by ignorance, so I’ve grown careful not to confuse intelligence with ignorance. I’ve also noticed that my surprise often exposes my ignorance. I’m not surprised that 1.3 million (13 percent) of voters decided the Amendment One question for 9.6 million (100 percent) of us. That’s the tactical genius of a frightened, dying minority—not God’s will, democracy-in-action or the moral merit of their cause.

“Esse Quam Videri”—the state motto. “As it is, not as it appears.” As it is now, partners and children of unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples will be hurt. Solzhenitsyn was under no illusion that the Soviet Union was Shangri-La. This isn’t communist Russia, and I’m not Solzhenitsyn, but every election exposes that at least some Carolinians prefer a capitalist, conservative, Christian, police state, a Carolina CCCP, to a secular Constitutional republic.

I still love it here. And like Will Rogers, “I never yet met a man that I didn’t like.” (I’ve liked some a lot better than others.) Neither NC’s natural beauty nor our social graces blind me to the fact that we’re the belly of many ignorant beasts. A lot of intelligent, caring Carolinians sincerely believe that homosexuality is a choice—and, worse, a sin. They’re fine with miracles, manna and money trickling down from above, police-in-schools, bailing out banks while busting unions, and placing polling stations at immaculate conception. They figure when the oceans rise and oil runs dry, God will provide. They’re certain if they save their money and say their prayers, they’ll go to heaven when they die.

I’m sure I’ll oppose the ignorance of the Carolina CCCP, join a union, work to overturn Citizen’s United and Amendment One, and contribute to progressive campaigns. I’ll start figuring out how we can get churches out of public schools and polling places out of churches. And, I’ll keep in mind my own ignorance, because if ignorance is bliss, then we’re all smiling about something.

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