Who knew?

What is key though is to understand that this is not just ignorance. Ignorance is just the first stage of Trump’s fairly advanced problem. He is not only ignorant but clearly unaware of his level of ignorance. This is compounded by a seeming inability to understand that everyone else isn’t equally ignorant to him. Those of us who are parents know the wonder of discovery experienced by small children. They find out there were things such as dinosaurs or close primate relatives called lemurs. As loving parents we indulge them, sometimes feigning ignorance of things we actually already knew to support a child’s joy in discovery.

But Donald Trump is a 70 year old man. And not a terribly nice man.

His ignorance is not endearing. We don’t need to lie to him to make him feel good about himself. Still it is good to understand his condition. Ignorance is just lack of information. But there’s something wrong with Trump’s brain – maybe cognitive, perhaps simple entitlement or just broad spectrum derp – which appears to make it genuinely impossible not to project his own ignorance onto everybody else.

–Josh Marshall, Trump and the Problem of Militant Ignorance

It’s worth asking the question: aren’t Trump voters just as ignorant as he is or as prone to projecting their own ignorance onto others? When Trump says, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” it’s easy to retort, “Everybody knew that health care was that complicated.” And you might even think that this is true. Who doesn’t know how nightmarishly complicated health care in America is? But I wonder.

When Trump projects his ignorance onto everyone else, it rankles those of us who already knew what he now knows. It’s vaguely offensive, and for many of the reasons Marshall describes. I mean, I know that I’m vastly too ignorant to be president of the United States, and it is a bit disconcerting to be offered daily evidence that I seem to know my history better than the man currently wielding the Tomahawk missiles. But then, I take seriously what William Faulkner once wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The only history Donald Trump cares about is his Twitter timeline.

In my experience, people who aren’t innately curious only educate themselves if they’re externally compelled to do so. A great many of them justify their ignorance by saying that whatever knowledge they don’t possess simply doesn’t matter in their own daily lives.

So I don’t think it’s entirely unfair for him to project ignorance onto others. The people who flocked to his rallies rewarded him for his ignorant expectorations with applause; the people who voted for him didn’t think his ignorance sufficient reason to disqualify him from the job that, thanks to them, he now holds. In other words, the people who made Donald Trump president are either as ignorant as he is or they don’t care terribly much about his militant ignorance. These are the people, I presume, of whom Trump speaks when he says things like, “But it’s not what you think.”

This isn’t “broad spectrum derp.” It actually makes intuitive sense. Why would the duly-elected president of the United States assume that the people who put him in office were more knowledgeable than he was? After all: if they knew better, why on earth would they have voted for him?

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“We often underestimate the common reader.”

“If readers trust that the effort of learning to read a strange or difficult writer is worth it, then they may put forth that effort. Brains are stubborn, and sometimes resist being changed. I threw Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! across the room three times when I first read it. Eventually, I put in enough work that the book was able to teach me how to read it. And then we were in love, eternal love.”

–Matthew Cheney, “Anecdotes on Literary Popularity and Difficulty