Basic Knowledge, post 9/11

There is a problem with Alan Jackson’s song. You know, the one that invariably twangs through the loudspeakers at public school assemblies and memorials on September 11th, year after year. The problem with “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” is not its basic sentiment, which, though campily expressed, rings genuine and touching. Rather, it’s a single line of the song, repeated in the refrain, that makes me wince every time.

Jackson sings, “I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran”, and this inability to distinguish between two major countries is held up as proof of the singer’s everyman qualities–of how he is just like the rest of us, a simple believer and a true American.

Is that really what we want ourselves to be known for? As a country embroiled in a tangle of wars in the Middle East, is it with pride that we should declare we know little about the area to begin with?

Lack of knowledge has somehow become something accepted. In fact, it’s touted as a good thing. But why? Shouldn’t we hold our politicians to a high standard of knowledge, rather than assert that inexperience among other politicians is an asset? I, for one, want the man or woman running our country to be smarter than me. If a candidate is just another one of the folks, why should he or she be running at all? In that vein, if the average person can’t find a country on a map, and can’t name the reason of conflict, should we be spending billions on a war there? As the election year approaches, it might behoove us to reconsider our priorities when choosing the nation’s leader and shaping our national image. A little knowledge goes a long way.



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