A lesson worth remembering

I copied this article from my Facebook feed.  I wrote it shortly after a lone gunman took aim at the police in Dallas on July 7th who were protecting a peaceful BLM protest.  The BLM folks were upset at two killings of black men over the course of two days, at the hands of the police.  I copied it here to keep it.

With all the cries of racism and fear mongering this week, I’m reminded of a lesson my father taught me. Now, for those of you who don’t know, my father was Dr. Anand Malik. He was a college professor who emigrated to the US from India. He had lived through the partition of India, which is a level of secular violence that no one in the USA has ever seen and few can comprehend.

We used to sit around on Sunday mornings flipping through the newspapers. Plural. Newspapers. We got the Knoxville newspaper, of course, but he also subscribed to the New York Times Sunday Edition. He loved the NYT but we couldn’t afford the daily edition. But every Sunday, we’d go through and the house would quickly be scattered with sections from art to lifestyle to editorial to hard news.

One Sunday, there was an article on the refugee camps in the Palestinian territories. He mumbled something and I asked him what was wrong.
“A hundred thousand people stuck in those camps, it’s senseless. In India, during partition, there were MILLIONS of people displaced. No camps. Everyone had to simply find a place to go, and go there. Today, there are no camps.”

I said “So why are there camps in Palestine?”

He said, “Because the Arab states want there to be. The want people to be suffering visibly as an indictment to Israel.”

I said “But how can they be so stupid! I bet if it were Americans, there wouldn’t be camps either.”

He said, and this is the lesson, “No one has a monopoly on stupid. Every country, every race, every religion has stupid people and hateful people and spiteful people. No one is any better than anyone else. Remember that. Sometimes we are lucky and we get a good leader. Other times, like in those countries, it didn’t work that way. But no one is any better than anyone else. Not Americans. Not Arabs. Not Israelis. Not Indians. No one.”

So this week, as we have people pointing fingers and screaming about how bad the police are, or how bad the BLM protesters are, or how bad the president is, I return to this lesson. No one has a monopoly on stupid. There are stupid cops who shoot law abiding citizens out of bad training, fear, and yes, racism. There are stupid well armed army washouts who hear about bad cops in other cities and decide to shoot good cops in their own town. There are stupid newscasters who accuse otherwise peaceful politicians of inciting violence while turning around and praising politicians who actually incite violence. There are stupid people everywhere.

Thomas Jefferson was famously worried about handing over government to stupid people. He argued for the Electoral College to be a way to make sure that the president was actually elected by smart people. We’ve pretty much neutered that idea in the name of democracy. But he had an important point and one that we shouldn’t forget — democracy in the hand of stupid people can be dangerous.

Just look at Brexit. Just look at Donald Trump. Stupid people elect stupid leaders, make stupid policy decisions, and support stupid ideas.

Our education system was supposed to create good citizens. That was the point. Horace Mann created our free public education system in the US with the EXPLICIT purpose of creating citizens who were smart enough to handle a democracy.

So when these things happen, I harken back to my father, on a Sunday morning, reminding me that “no country has a monopoly on stupid.”