Are Americans "dumb" or just "duped?"

An article appeared on my Facebook feed the other day about the “dumbing down” of American culture, and I could not resist the urge to chime in. The so-called “dumbing down” of American culture is one of my pet peeves and I believe it deserves more attention than it gets.

The term "dumbing down" fails to do justice to the depth of the problem. You can hardly blame Americans for their lack of intellectual depth when there are elements—to wit Fox News and some conservative radio talk shows—whose whole platform is dedicated to deliberately suppressing critical thought. By grossly oversimplifying complex issues into black and white categories—the thing is either right or it's wrong, true or false—they blind their listeners to the myriad shades of gray, cases where there might be more than one way of looking at an issue or where several seemingly conflicting points could be true at the same time.

This philosophy deliberately seeks to control listeners and also manages at the same time to keep them from growing into full spiritual adulthood. It discourages two major tasks in spiritual development. One milestone in spiritual maturity is to distance oneself from his or her tribe enough to critically examine the "Kool-aid" they are expected to drink. But conservative elements in our society have sought to suppress this by presenting their "facts" in such a way that their audience dare not question anything they say. Even educated professionals are sometimes drawn into a rhetoric that appeals to their most selfish drives, and inspires unfounded ethnocentric fears. It never dawns on them that these outlets deliberately seek to manipulate them, to restrict public wisdom and maturity, and keep their listeners mired in abject spiritual immaturity.

Another necessary step on the road to spiritual maturity is to accept that many, or even most issues in today’s world are far too complex to be solved by simplistic black and white reasoning. We humans are capable of much more complex thought patterns than the binary logic computer run on. But outlets such as Fox News and certain talk radio shows deliberately seek to limit our full consideration of these issues. They present issues in such simplistic “either-or” terms—adding authoritative innuendo to the “either” premise in such a way that the “or” proposition sounds ludicrous—that listeners dare not disagree with them. The goal is to control opinions by presenting things in a way that restricts sophisticated thought. Merely claiming to be "fair and balanced" is a far cry from honestly presenting an issue in its full complexity. People succumbing to these tactics allow these outlets control over their opinions, their buying habits and their voting choices.

The upshot after a couple of decades of public victimization by these tactics is the presidential nomination of a rash and largely ruthless (probably Lawless) businessman whose success came at least in part by stepping on the backs of those with whom he did business. Our increasingly gullible citizens have been stripped of their ability to critically examine the issues important to our society. Instead of seeking competence, experience, dignity, and diplomacy in their president, certain elements have actually responded favorably to Donald Trump’s vile histrionics, putrified ethnocentricity and embarrassingly undignified campaign.

The Donald Trump nomination sheds light on the evils involved in depriving people of use of the one trait that makes them most human—their critical thinking abilities. It shows us how decades of manipulating truths and deliberately discouraging mature thought has indeed dumbed down our population to the point where they don’t recognize or appreciate dignity, integrity, diplomacy, compassion and inclusiveness as desirable traits in a president.

For decades of restricting their listeners’ critical thinking abilities, conservative news and opinion outlets deserve the clown wanna-be politician who arose out of their midst, and the caricature he has made of the values they would have liked to uphold. But the American people do not deserve the unbridled mess that a Donald Trump presidency would create. I for one am deeply saddened by this possibility, and cannot help pointing an accusing finger at those who created the circumstances that led up to it.

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