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Newmann: Of idealogies and ideals

“Ignorance is stubborn and prejudice dies hard” — Adlai Stevenson, two-time presidential candidate and former ambassador to the United Nations

Stevenson would probably be ruefully shaking his head if he had witnessed some of the events of this past week. Ignorance and prejudice, along with several other less-than-complimentary forms of behavior, seemed to be on full display. Kind of makes you wonder what’s going on? And why it’s going on?

In the immediate aftermath of John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, the longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer was asked in an interview if the president’s assassination was the sign of a sick society. He replied that it was the work of a sick individual, not the sign of a sick society. His words gave a bit of solace and reassurance to a nation that was rocked by such a violent event.



Fast forward 60 or so years, and we seem to have become somewhat more inured to violence, and to the ignorance and prejudice that can lead to catastrophic actions. This is not to make a case for a sick society. We haven’t devolved into a bunch of crazed lunatics. But our divisions — and, in some cases, our rhetoric — have created some pretty dark spaces for folks to inhabit. And some of them believe that this darkness, filled with ignorance and prejudice, is actually reality.

Even in the mainstream, we’re in a phase where “replacement theory” vies with “critical race theory;” where “pro-choice” and “pro-life” (oddly enough both proclaiming to be “pro”) are at total loggerheads and can make no accommodations toward one another. No middle ground, no compromise — with, ironically, mandated “morality” espoused by some folks who are opposed to any other types of mandates.



And politics … well, the divisiveness there is really self-evident. And it’s not just ideologies between parties; it’s also within them, and for some folks, a squabble as to who can be the most extreme, who can be the most sensational, the most divisive. More and more, we seem to be moving in a direction that leads to “You’re either with us or against us” — a direction that causes positions to harden, which creates more and more polarity and can eventually lead to the ignorant stubbornness and the subsequent prejudices that can be so destructive.

Media — both conventional and social — plays a huge role in shaping folks’ attitudes and beliefs, and there are probably as many outlets for sharing conforming outlooks as there are folks who want to share those views. A caution would be: how legitimate are these outlets? Are they just fueling contention? Is there any balance? Or just screed?

It’s pretty easy to subscribe to views that validate one’s own ideas and/or theories. And there’s a certain comfort in knowing that others have the same opinions, that we’re not alone in our perspectives.

But perhaps there’s a need for a more expansive view, a look into why ignorance and prejudices have managed to gain such a stronghold.

And why they continue to flourish.


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