In 1962 the great historian Richard Hofstadter published his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. I bought it in about 1970 and always wanted to read it. Now I am starting to read it because its message is so horribly relevant now.
A long stream of anti-intellectualism has hurt the U.S. in various ways throughout our history. It seems to be worsening now, as the federal government has made the U.S. a “rogue nation” that denies science in many aspects of public policy (environment, climate, health issues, etc.) and deletes honest, accurate scientific information from the federal government’s websites. Under Trump and the Republicans, the U.S. is DELIBERATELY IGNORANT and is ACTIVELY REPRESSING TRUTH.
People who want our nation to solve problems have a steeper climb now. People who organize for social and political change need to devise strategies to counter this worsening political/cultural context. We also need to devise strategies to make mainstream media face the hard realities and report on them with the intellectual and scientific accuracy these hard realities deserve, and to conscientiously distinguish between the phony political posturing that dominates the news and the bold practical public policy changes that we need in order for the earth and humanity to survive and thrive.
This brief quotation from page viii in the author’s Prefatory Note before the Table of Contents is very timely. The author quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Let us honestly state the facts. Our America has a bad name for superficialness. Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it.”
In contrast to Emerson’s quotation, the U.S. President now is indeed a boaster and a buffoon. Instead of facing reality, he and the Republican Party and most Democrats are in denial about the hard realities. Many Republicans are “deniers” about the climate crisis and other aspects of science and reality. Also, many Democrats also “deniers” in that they think that merely tinkering around the edges will suffice.
Our task is to make both political parties — and mainstream media — recognize the hard realities and deal with them responsibly. This requires honest science and the wisest possible public policy proposals. We must stop letting public policy be dominated by Big Business’s greed and by right-wing religion’s dogma.