Ignorance is No Excuse

If you do not know something is illegal and you commit the crime, for the most part you are still going to get in trouble. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Today I heard someone make a point that really hit home for me.

In this country, over the lifetime of people we know, we as a nation have done some pretty incredible things. Many inventions have come about to make life better, easier. Medical breakthroughs have saved lives and made us healthier and able to live longer. We have helped people, won wars and been a beacon for the world. All within the lifetime of people we know, are related to and grown up around.

And yet knowing that we can do so much, seeing the sacrifices of the generations before us, realizing how important the next few years could be for this nation, we choose to not learn all we can to help make informed decisions.

I know that the country is divided. I know that everything we read can’t be trusted. I know that we are busy. I know that everyone is doing their best to get by.

But when did it become ok to just say the news is depressing, so we aren’t going to bother to keep up? When did we decided that people we have trusted and who are educated and experienced are now elites and the enemy? When did we hand over our responsibility to be informed, do research, know what is happening in our communities, our state or nation? When did we decide that we can gripe about everything and yet put forth no effort to make things better? Not even enough effort to read a newspaper, or watch the evening news, or look things up when they don’t sound quite right?

When did we decide to just accept things we are told, even when later it is proven they aren’t true? When did we decide being intelligent and informed was a bad thing? When did we put everyone in a box and decide that if you were in a different box from us, we don’t care about you? When did we decide that if it doesn’t affect us directly, we don’t care?

Not knowing what is happening in the world doesn’t exempt you from being affected by what is going on in the world. It just means that instead of being prepared for the fall out, you will be blindsided as if hit by a train. It means that instead of being informed so that you can possibly make a difference, you will be oblivious and part of the problem. It means that everything the generations before us gave so much to build and uphold could go down in flames as we fiddle, uncaring and too lazy to keep up.

I know that I am weird, that I am a news junky and a research nerd. I know that I lose sleep at night thinking about the world’s problems. I know that in the scheme of things I am making almost no contribution to fix any of it.

But I’ll be damned if I am going to stick my head in the sand and pretend that none of it matters. That pretending it isn’t there will make it go away. That saying something loud enough will make it true.

Ignorance will be no excuse if climate change changes our world beyond repair. Ignorance will be no excuse if we vote in people who destroy our country.

And speaking out or voting while being ignorant is just as bad. Listen, learn, seek out the truth, do more than hear something and accept it- check it out, dig deeper, educate yourself. Almost half of the people who are eligible to vote don’t even bother. And lots of those who do vote, vote for who their spouse tells them to or who their friend suggested or base their vote on false information.

Do your homework! And the time to start doing that is NOW- not the day before an election. By all means do your own homework- copying off of your neighbor’s paper is just as bad now as it was in 4th grade. Just because you live in an area that tends to vote one way, you don’t have to. Vote your own mind and conscience regardless of what your friend, neighbor, parent or spouse thinks.

I remember my parents taking me with them to vote when I was a child. I loved that we dressed up, headed downtown and stood in line with others. When my mother entered the voting booth, pulled the curtain and showed me how the levers worked, I thought it was fascinating. Then she would pull out the slip of paper my father had given her with all of the candidates listed that he expected her to vote for. She would pull the levers exactly as instructed, refold the paper and return it to her purse, before pushing the button that opened the curtain back onto the line of people waiting to vote next.

Going with my parents to vote taught me several things, one was that I loved the process. I watched the debates as a child, started my still growing collection of political buttons in my teens and couldn’t wait until I could sign the form and go behind the curtain to vote.

It also taught me that never, ever would I let someone else tell me who to vote for. My mother was willing to let my father do the leg work and make the decision for her. I knew that doing the research, thinking about what issues are important to me (and let me just say they all are)and making my own choices would be something I would most assuredly do.

Being ignorant is not an option, not if you want to continue to live in a free society, in a world that sustains us and the other species counting on us, in a world that is kind and giving and true.

I am not saying who you should vote for, although I certainly have very strong opinions- just do your homework, look for the truth, (it is getting harder and harder to find) and vote for what you believe, what you profess on your best days, what is best for the world around you, not just your selfish self.

Ignorance will be no excuse if you don’t.

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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.