Stupid Republicans, Ignorant Democrats

There was a time when the words “stupid” and “ignorant” actually had definitions that differentiated them unambiguously.  The original etymological meanings behind these words can provide crucial insights into the profound difference, at a foundational cognitive level, between Republicans and Democrats.

Our word “stupid” derives from the Latin verb infinitive stupere (adj. stupidus, -a, -um; n. stupiditas), which means “to be stunned, struck senseless, astounded, amazed (Cassell’s Latin Dictionary); to be confounded (Online Etymology Dictionary) or flummoxed.  Hmm.  Notice what’s missing?  There is no reference to human intelligence.  So, when a Roman said, “Stupeo,” he wasn’t admitting his doltishness; he was saying, “I am stunned, I am confounded”; I’m clueless, I don’t know how to respond.  Today that ancestral meaning is almost completely lost, except perhaps in the present-day cognates “stupefied” and “stupefaction.”

Our word “ignorant” owes its existence to the Latin verb ignorare (adj. ignarus, -a, -um; n. ignorantia) which means simply “not to know” (Cassell’s Latin Dictionary).  Once again, we find no hint of a reference to lack of human intelligence.  When a Roman senator gestured to a colleague and said, “Ignoras,” he wasn’t saying, “You’re a hopeless half-wit”; he was saying simply, “You do not know [something].”  The ancestral meaning of “ignorant” has likewise been almost completely lost.  The closest we come to ignorare is our cognate “ignore,” but this is only a near match.  When we ignore something, it may not be because we don’t know about it, but because we are consciously setting aside what we do know.

Of crucial importance are the different grammatical voices of the two verbs we’re considering.  Stupere is a verb of the passive voice — i.e., it refers not to something one does but to something done to another.  Ignorare, by contrast, is an active verb with a direct object.  It means “not to knowsomething.”  But what is that something?  That, of course, depends on the context, but the one attribute the something cannot have is untruthfulness.  This is not a definitional fact; it is simple, irrefutable logic.  While we can believe something that is false, we cannot know it.  Likewise, we can only not know something that is true.

These observations have profound moral consequences for stupere and ignorare.  The stupidus person is reactive.  He does not bring stupiditas on himself; it is something generated by events outside him.  So why doesn’t the stupidus person see the light, come to his senses, and resist being manipulated by events human or natural?  The reason is something akin to normalcy bias.  The stupidus person cannot confront people and events — perhaps cannot even comprehend them — if they are outside his normalcy boundaries and are therefore just too threatening to his conception of reality, his core values, his very core being.  The stupidus person really can’t help himself; he is a deer in the headlights.

The moral implications of ignorare are very different.  To begin with, the active/transitive attributes of the word mean that it always refers to an act of the will.  Ignorare is on purpose.  To put it in plain language, an ignarus person is willfully unknowing — i.e., he doesn’t know [the truth] because he doesn’t want to know.  To put it in blunt language, he is deceitful, but the one he is deceiving is none other than himself.  Deceitfulness, whether directed toward oneself or another, is unambiguously evil.  The degree of evil in ignorantia depends on the extent to which the ignarusperson acts out his ignorantia and thereby becomes an evildoer.

Now we have arrived at a point where we can link this etymological excursion to our major political parties.  It’s also a good place to dispense with the “Latin lingo”; in what follows, I will presume that the reader understands that when I use the word “stupid” or any of its present-day American English cognates, I’m employing a thumbnail definition, “easily confoundable”; the word “ignorant” and its cognates will refer to people who are “willfully unknowing.”

Who are the stupid Republicans, and why are they stupid?  I would contend that they are most often those Republicans we refer to as “moderate” or “centrist.”  Such ones typically pride themselves on being “independent thinkers.”  In fact, their thinking is not so much independent as it is syncretistic: mix a little leftism, a little conservatism, and — voilà! — we have…uh, not a mixture, but just a bucket full of warm…, separated oil and water that will never mix.  Nothing so characterizes centrist Republicanism as its incoherence.  That’s why it could be more truthfully called “muddle-of-the-road” Republicanism…that’s right, I said it: ideological mud.  Republicans who are devoid of a coherent worldview, an ideology, invariably end up being the stupidest of all.  Deep down they lack intellectual confidence — though they would indignantly, fiercely deny this — because their thinking is fundamentally incoherent.  That leaves them sitting targets for Democrat bullying and propaganda.

Who then are today’s ignorant Democrats?  Answer: all of them.  The ignorance of Democrats is simply a matter of extent and degree.  In today’s Democratic Party, dominated as it is by the radical left, it is simply impossible to not be ignorant of something of major importance, so riddled is that party’s ideology with falsehoods of fact and errors of logic.  This applies even to those Democrats, mainly in positions of power and leadership, who tell lies and know they are being deceitful; the line of distinction between mendacity and ignorance is often razor-thin.

So, why are Democrats ignorant?  That’s quite a bit more complex and will have to wait.

But Jacobson, you say, who do you think you are?  Nobody can change word definitions; they just are.  To that I say, as we say in Missouri, “The heck!”  Don’t the leftists tamper with word definitions every day in order to impose their tyranny by deceitful means?  For starters, look how they’ve mutilated the words “diversity” and “affirmative” (as in “action”).

Control of our language by the left — and today that control can hardly be disputed — is perhaps the single most powerful weapon in the leftist arsenal.  Conservatives will never be victorious until we seize that control from the death-grip of the left in order to use it for a very different purpose: to enable liberty by truthful means.  Obviously no one person can do that singlehandedly, but working together, conservatives can recapture language, privately and publicly, to crush the leftists’ campaign to “create confusion, fear and retreat” (Alinsky Rule #3).  Instead, by using our words in a definitive, perspicuous way, we can promote conservative clarity, courage and victory.

This post first appeared as an article in American Thinker on September 6, 2011

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