The Problem With Those 'Low-Information Voters'

I have no quarrel with euphemisms. If you want to say someone "passed away" rather than "died," what's the harm? After all, it's not as if you're denying that someone is dead. All you're doing is attempting to soften the blow a bit, which is commendable.

Because we live in a democracy, our regular everyday speech shouldn't be controlled by some pointy-headed linguistics experts. We common people should be allowed to express ourselves in any manner we like. As the American Voyeur Society proudly states, "Power to the peephole."

So if we want to call old people or the elderly "senior citizens," that's fine. Personally (as a senior citizen), I find that almost laughable, but where's the harm? As for menu items, if they wish to refer to animal flesh as "meat," and stomach lining as "tripe," and various cooked glands as "sweetbread," that's their business.

When I was training for the Peace Corps many moons ago, the candidates who were ultimately not allowed to serve in a foreign country were told that they had been "de-selected." That was their term for it. Some of us were selected, others were de-selected.

In order to spare us the trauma and disgrace, none of us were told we had been rejected. Bless their hearts, that news would have been too harsh. ("Hey, I heard the Peace Corps rejected you." "Well, you heard wrong, dude. I wasn't rejected. I was de-selected.")

It's not that words don't matter. We all recognize the fact that words serve not only as instruments of clarification and elucidation, but as weapons, as a means of intentionally hurting people.

I know a married couple who are raising their children to be compassionate, generous and open-minded citizens. Concerned that she might choose to hang out with only fellow Anglo-Saxons on her first day of junior high school, these parents urged their daughter to seek out "people of color."

That struck me as good advice, a proper way to raise a child in today's world. But when the girl came home, she told her mother, matter of factly, that she hadn't been able to hang out with any "colored people." Oops.

Which brings us to "low-information voters" (LIVs). Unlike the aforementioned euphemisms, which are harmless, this particular one is dangerous. It was invented by a gutless media to describe butt-ignorant people who were too lazy or narcissistic or unimaginative to pay attention to what's going on in the world, but who insist on having a say in it.

Of course, being a LIV wouldn't make any difference if we lived in an absolute dictatorship or in a monarchy where we were ruled by a king or queen who made all of our important decisions. One could go through life blissfully ignorant and not do any harm, because being an "informed citizen" would be irrelevant.

But polls show that a disturbingly large segment of America's voters are abysmally ignorant. They can't name the three branches of the government, they can't list even half of the Bill of Rights, they don't know who their own congressman or senator is, they don't how much they pay in taxes, etc., etc..

All they know for certain is that they know all the answers. All they know for certain is that they know way more than the people governing us. We've all met a LIV. While we can't pass a law forbidding them to vote, can't we at least come up with a less dignified name for them?