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Defining Terrorism (copy)

Rescue workers help injured people Aug. 12 who were hit when a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Ignorance is a choice. Our ignorance, along with our curiosity, can spur us to seek knowledge, or we can rely on it to protect our beliefs in things that aren’t true.

Every time we use a search engine like Google to find information, we’re admitting we’re ignorant of certain facts. I may know most of the rules of grammar, but I have no knowledge of calculus. None of us can know — or need to know — everything, so it’s understandable that we’re all ignorant about certain things. Usually, it makes no difference.

Unless it’s used to ignore facts we don’t want to know, it’s perfectly normal. But if it’s an excuse to close our minds and restrict our knowledge so we can protect our comfort zones and preserve our prejudices, it can hurt us and those around us — even loved ones.

For example, some people have been programmed to believe that homosexuals or transgender people are mentally ill or sinful. If they have a child who’s gay, some parents try to force the totally ineffective and cruel “conversion therapy” on them or banish the child from their lives. Cruel children and even some adults bully anyone who’s gay or transgender and some even use the Bible to rationalize their cruelty.

There also are those who label anything they don’t want to believe as “fake news.” Despite mountains of evidence that proves they’re wrong, some people still refuse to believe it. They immerse themselves in narrow comfort zones and can’t be convinced of anything that clashes with their long-held beliefs, even if those beliefs have no basis in reality.

I’ve met people who say they and their families always have voted to elect candidates in the same political party, no matter who the candidate is. They refuse to track the votes of that party’s lawmakers, to acknowledge that the parties have changed drastically in the past few years, or to seek information from any source that doesn’t support their party.

Others act on their ignorance when they condemn everyone of a certain race, religion or ethnicity. History details how many times blind bigotry has resulted in the torture and murder of innocent people. Here in the United States, it resulted in the despicable actions of the Ku Klux Klan, laws that support inequality and bombings of churches, mosques and Jewish synagogues.

In an area that should represent peace and love, religions have been misused as an excuse for hatred and violence. In fact, most wars and turmoil have been waged by those who skew the teachings of their religions to silence, banish or eliminate those of different religions or races. Every one of the people who incited those calamities chose to be ignorant.

I’m reminded of an otherwise sensible man who was a neighbor of ours in northern Minnesota. One day he mentioned a nearby farm was for sale. “I hope they don’t sell to a black person,” he said.

“Have you ever known any black people?” I asked.

“Can’t say I have,” he said.

“Then how do you know that would be a bad thing?” I asked.

He had no answer, and I couldn’t convince him there are many more good black people than bad. Ignorance like that was evident not long ago when right-wing fanatics held posters showing President Barack Obama hanging by a noose or with a bone through his nose.

In the same way, condemning or blaming all police officers, teachers, Muslims, Christians, Jews or any other group for the misdeeds of a few is a sign of ignorance. Unfortunately, those with a hateful agenda spread fear based on lies that are unquestioned by the intentionally ignorant.

As a result, bigotry and hatred have been increasing. Peaceful Muslim women have had their hijabs torn off. The president has imposed an immigration and travel ban on several predominately Muslim countries even though, as of 2015, there were 3.3 million Muslims living in the U.S. who lead peaceful and loving lives.

Memorials outside Jewish synagogues have been sprayed with swastikas. Doctors have been attacked and killed outside of Planned Parenthood clinicss and homosexuals beaten and killed by Christian extremists. Yet the only religious-based extremists condemned by the right-wing are Islamic terrorists.

Today, ignorance is encouraged by the U.S. president and our Wisconsin governor. Both of them have appointed people with no education or experience in the important agencies they head. The only requirement, it seems, is that those appointees agree with the governor’s and president’s goals to undo the environmental and consumer safeguards that protect us all. Is that what their supporters wanted?

Votes result in consequences. Cast them wisely.

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 30 years. Contact her at