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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Ignorance is a Virtue

Peter Barritt
Superstock, via Alamy

Trying to figure things out has been an expression of my essential optimism, it seems to me, over the course of my lifetime. “Recognize problems, solve them, and make things better” makes sense to me, as easy to understand as picking up after myself.


I’m a child of the Enlightenment, I suppose, a believer in logic and evidence and reason, and like my parents and grandparents, progress, social progress, that will make the world a better place than it was for me for our children and our grandchildren.


My earliest political memories are things that split my extended family, down the middle, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. I’ve lived through the assassinations of my boyhood heroes, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Lewinsky, 9-11, and billions, if not trillions, of dollars for vengeful wars that turned us into what we said we wanted not to be, through Oklahoma City and Sandy Hook, the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. With all of that, though, and even in the face of state sponsored genocide and revolutionary terrorism, I’ve always felt that if we could be honest, recognize our errors, and work to solve our problems, we would make the world a better place for our children. “I might not get there with you,” but “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” I heard Dr. King say. 


Now, though. 


And I quote, “Misinformation that an animal drug can cure COVID has run rampant, causing demand for it to surge and straining the equine and livestock world.”


Now, though. 


And I quote, “Doctors and nurses at a Coeur d’Alene, Idaho hospital have been accused of killing patients” by people, “who don’t believe COVID-19 is real.”


Now, though.


Elkhart and St. Joseph County officials reject funding to fight a real health threat because their ideology fosters fear of a threat that’s imaginary. 


The Elkhart County health officer quits, saying she was threatened. The Berrien County health officer quits because public health has been politicized. The school board that governs Jimtown High School rejects the mask mandate recommended by the superintendent. 


Mask mandates, they say, are the enemy, more than the virus they are proven to stop, more than the pandemic that has killed a number of Americans equal to the number of Americans murdered on 9-11, that is, if the number of Americans murdered on 9-11 happened every day for eight months. 


Like you, probably, I struggle to understand the rejection of what seems like common sense when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine and social distancing guidelines. Here’s a problem. Here’s a solution. I don’t get it. 


I think about the threat of global warming: rising sea levels and floods and fires and hurricanes and crop killing temperatures and disappearing drinking water sources. Stopping climate change requires more inconvenience than COVID. But, why should I think, even for a second, that with this evidence, enough people will go along with any inconvenience that’s enough to make a difference. Fifty-four per cent of the eligible citizens of Elkhart County can’t even be bothered to get a COVID vaccination. It’s also a majority of the eligible for a vaccine citizens of Cass, Marshall, and Kosciusko counties. “Can’t be bothered” is more than 60 per cent in Starke County and more than 70 per cent in LaGrange. Again, that’s the people 12 and up, those eligible, rejecting a vaccine.   


Maybe it’s my age, that my Boomer time has passed, but I have to tell you today, I’m frightened for the future. It’s a fear that’s bigger than COVID. It’s a fear that maybe we’ve already entered into the totalitarian society that George Orwell described in 1984, the world where “Freedom is Slavery” to a simplistic don’t make me think ideology and “Ignorance is Strength.”


Ignorance is now a virtue. Trump won. Global warming is a lie. Teaching the truth about history and getting a vaccine to protect the safety of ourselves and of others are assaults on “freedom,” the freedom that people have died to earn and died to protect that now means nothing more than “Don’t tell me what to do.” 


It’s not only about covid and it’s not going away. Ignorance is now a virtue. And, people who know better accommodate it.


Ignorance is a virtue. In America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, the empires of the powerful pander to ignorance. For votes, no amount of power is ever enough, and for advertising revenue, no amount of money is ever enough. 


Maybe it’s my age, that my Boomer time has passed, but I have to tell you today, I’m frightened for the future. It’s a fear greater than COVID. 


Ignorance is now a virtue. 


Song: “Not the News,” Thom Yorke, Anima  

Sid Shroyer is a contributor to Michiana Chronicles and was a co-creator of The Wild Rose Moon Radio Hour, heard monthly on WVPE. He became a part-time announcer at WVPE in 2001 and has just recently retired from hosting of All Things Considered.