“I’m educated, but uniformed,” Sheryl said deadpan. “And I want to stay uniformed.”
“Laughing is good,” she said.
But I was laughing at her, and not with happiness, but skin-crawling disgust.
An accountant for over 30 years, at one time running her own firm, Sheryl has an MBA from Wharton, which informed her about the world of finance. Unfortunately, Sheryl’s thirst for knowledge ended as soon as she passed her CPA exam.
To fill the schisms in her understanding of our world beyond her accounting job, she forms her opinions based on interactions with the few family members and neighbors remaining in her tiny, financially depressed Colorado town. They were, and still are angry they lost their coal mining jobs the town of Delta, CO was built on. They blame democrats for closing down their coal mines, though their mines have been closing since the 1990s, with natural gas, as well as renewable energy sources of wind and solar, slowly replacing dirty coal.
“Obama killed this town,” she assured me on the phone last week. “Closing all the mines for no good reason.”
“Well, global warming is a pretty good reason to get rid of coal,” I offered. “Don’t ya think?”
“It sure isn’t doing this town any good,” her retort.
“Yeah, well, it’ll do the planet some good, and the rest of humanity, as without clean air, we all die, even the good folks left in Delta.”
Dead silence on the other end of the line. I waited some time for her to say something, but she didn’t.
“Sher, you do know that burning coal pollutes the air with toxic chemistry like lead, mercury, and other heavy metals, right?”
“All I know is Delta was once vibrant, and now it’s like a ghost town. And that didn’t need to happen.”
“You’re right. It didn’t. Had the town acted, invited other industries to set up shop, or the miners had gone back to school to retrain for thinking jobs, instead of manual labor that a robot can do better…” I let my voice trail off, as I knew I’d lost her.
“Anyway,” she finally offered. “I find talking about stuff like this tedious. It’s so depressing. Friends and family I know have lost their jobs, their homes, which destroyed their marriages, like my sister and her ex-husband.”
Sheryl’s sister married the high school quarterback the day they both graduated because she was pregnant with his baby. He was injured his first year with the Colorado State Rams, quit college shortly thereafter, and has lived on welfare since. He was never a coal miner.
“But you know that burning more coal to generate electricity is bad for the planet, and every living thing on it, right?”
“I don’t know anything but what I see. And the air around where I live looks just fine to me.”
“Be that as it may, the world doesn’t begin and end in Delta, Colorado, Sher,” I reminded her. “Dirty air travels around the planet. Come on, girl, you are highly educated. You know this.”
“I’m educated, but uniformed,” she said. “And I prefer to stay uninformed.
I laughed. Hearing someone tout their ignorance was shocking.
“Laughing is good,” she sighed, with my heavy sigh. “Like I said, talking about all this drama, or reading about it, or even watching the news, is just so tedious.”
I didn’t try to engage her further. I made some excuse about having to go somewhere and hung up, but I still can not get her words out of my head. She proudly proclaimed she’s “uninformed,” and chooses to stay this way.
Sheryl’s brother committed suicide at 45 years old. Why? Her family has no idea. They didn’t, and don’t deal in weighty, “tedious” subjects. Ever. It was so much easier to ignore his depression, keep the conversations light. Makes everyone less uptight.
Sheryl is a Republican. Choosing to remain ignorant to the rise in global temperatures most every scientist in the world now acknowledges is real, she voted for Trump and his band of merry rich men who promised to bring the coal industry back to Delta, CO. This has yet to happen.
Ignorance isn’t bliss. It didn’t help Sheryl’s brother, or her mother who still grieves the loss of her son, or the unemployed coal miners get their jobs back. Ignoring “tedious” issues didn’t serve Sheryl either. Ignorance is corrosive, lazy, self-interested—sticking your head in the sand, or more precisely, up your own ass to live carefree, thoughtlessly, binge watching TV. Choosing to remain “uninformed,” avoiding ‘weighty’ issues to ‘lighter,’ trite exchanges about the latest celebrity gossip, or [scripted] realty TV, serves nobody.
If the human race, and every living thing on this planet is to survive the technology people create, each of us must invest the time and the energy it takes to become “informed” about important local and global issues, as they arise. All of us must work to defeat ignorance, by seeking knowledge from those who share our perspectives, and those who don’t. When we learn to really listen to each other, seek to understand, with empathy, not judgment, exchange informed opinions, and engage in the art of compromise…humanity will thrive. ; }