Shameless Ignorance and Shameful Prejudice 720.3

A while ago, I spoke about my frustration trying to keep up with the uprisings in the Middle East and Northern Africa, the nuclear meltdown in Japan, the status of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the federal and state budget cuts. Now I have to add the tornado in St. Louis, wildfires in Texas, and Kobe Bryant’s ankle injury.

Many listeners chided me for worrying so much, proudly proclaiming their informational isolationism, a conscious and guiltless decision to limit their concerns to things that immediately and directly affect their lives.

It sure would be easier, but I can’t adopt this strategy because I believe I have two ethical obligations to understand and care about matters that impact dramatically the lives of so many people, even if they are strangers. (Okay, I admit the ankle injury doesn’t meet this test.)

First, I think all citizens have a responsibility to know enough to form intelligent opinions, especially on issues of public policy relating to whom and what they vote for. Second, it just feels wrong to not consciously feel empathy and compassion for fellow human beings who are suffering or serving our country.

In a democracy, every citizen is a public official, and there are responsibilities that come with our rights. I treasure our privilege to think and speak freely and to select our leaders, but the exercise of these privileges undermines rather than advances the theory of a government for and by the people if shameless ignorance and shameful prejudices become prevalent.

Maybe I could learn to fret less, but I still must do my best to do my part.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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