I used to watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report a lot when I was in high school. They were my first glimpse into the political world. They were funny, and gave a not-too-deep glance into the crazy and often confusing world of American politics. The shows have a definite liberal slant, but I didn’t and still don’t mind it. You know why? I can watch them and not agree with them. It’s ok. Getting into a Poli Sci major in college pretty much put a halt on watching those shows for me. You can’t exactly cite The Daily Show in a paper, so I moved on to more grown up news sources: newspapers, magazines, books, and scholarly papers. Much more informative, much less entertaining.
I still love those guys though; Colbert because he’s funny, Stewart because he’s so damn insightful sometimes. Case in point: he was on The Colbert Report the other day, and I just happened to catch it. He recently directed (produced?) a movie that he was talking about. I wasn’t paying too much attention (watching while I worked), but I caught a quote that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I heard it. Jon Stewart said, “evil is relatively rare, ignorance is epidemic.”
The more I thought about this, the more it rang true. Being on social media has become almost excruciating lately. Facebook in particular with the hate spewing from both sides of the Michael Brown shooting. People paint Michael Brown as evil, people paint Darren Wilson as evil. “Evil is relatively rare, ignorance is epidemic.” Neither of these two men is evil. Withholding my own opinion about who I think was at fault, there is a real problem with how this incident has been received. The ignorance really is staggering. There are real racists in the world, they are not necessarily evil, but they are extremely ignorant. There are people that label every incident like this as being racist, they are not evil, but they are also extremely ignorant and perpetuate hatred. When you jump on a cop-hating band wagon, you are being ignorant. Period. You are being equally as ignorant as the true racists that are in this world.
Do you want to know who is truly evil in this world? People whose ignorance crosses the line into action. Ignorance morphing into genocide. Ignorance morphing into perpetual hatred. These are evil things. Some things just happen. Circumstances align, bad decisions are made, and someone loses their life. These things happen every day. To go with a knee jerk reaction and label them as racist is ignorant. The good news is that ignorance, unlike evil, is in its very nature curable. To do this, do not let your ignorance cross into action. Inaction is the best policy. Do not underestimate the power of thoughtful introspection. Posting videos of cops killing and cops being killed only galvanizes people against you. Blocking freeways and shopping malls does the same thing. Lumping these incidents together with others, no matter how similar they seem is ignorant. Each case is different on an infinite number of levels. You were not there, you will never know for sure. We’re all ignorant in one way or another, to deny that is to lie to yourself. Before you flirt with the line between ignorance and evil, consider what effect your action will have. Inaction can be an action in itself.
Jon Stewart may not agree with everything I’ve said, but I am grateful to him for that quote. I hope it makes you think as well. Think beyond my example and use the quote a lens to look at any situation where hatred is tossed around so casually.