Tahlequah Daily Press

Columns

May 21, 2012

Willful ignorance, or just how we are?

TAHLEQUAH —  

A friend of mine sent me a link on Facebook from health.com, which featured one of those “superlative” lists designed to catch your eye with a promise of revelation that never materializes. They bear breathlessly bold titles like “Ten Movie Stars Who Look Great Naked,” or “Best Cities That Still Allow You to Smoke in Restaurants,” or “Top 10 Places to Retire in the U.S.” Cherokee County has capitalized big-time on that last one, and we’ll keep beating that horse after it’s desiccated into a small strip of hide.
This list denoted the “Ten Most Depressing States in the U.S.” I won’t name the friend – even though he fully intended me to address the topic – because he’s a rather intimidating if affable sort, but mainly because I didn’t think to get his permission to quote him before I started writing. He’s also intelligent, and some of you will guess his identity by his comment: “Thought it might appeal to your twisted little mind. I’m curious to find out what the other three categories are other than poverty and lack of health care. You suppose “willful ignorance” is a category?”
Having given it some thought, I believe I’ll have to discuss this with him further. If you are “willfully ignorant,” wouldn’t you have to first accept that your beliefs, behaviors and thought processes constituted ignorance, and that you deliberately established that status for yourself? 
I’ve heard people admit to ignorance on a limited basis: “As far as how God created the universe, I’m ignorant,” or “I’m ignorant when it comes to calculus formulae, but I’m good at grammar.” But few people proudly claim a pervasive, all-encompassing  lack of information. 
In a teaser before listing the states alphabetically, the website suggests “personal circumstances and genes play an important role in mental health,” and that mental distress is “unusually ... common in some states ... due to economic troubles, lack of access to health care, or other factors.” (It’s a serious topic, and you can see a serious take on it if you read the guest commentary by State Rep. Mike Brown to the left. He lists several reasons why being an Oklahoman and being depressed might be mutually inclusive, and what we can do about it. The “willfully ignorant” will not like what he has to say.)

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