In perusing such venues for public commentary as the Letters to the Editor section of the newspaper, I am often struck by the seeming dearth of political knowledge in the population. This was driven home with particular clarity as I digested "Democrats playing games," a somewhat prosaic fulmination aimed at those "peaceniks" still hoping for some solution other than war in Iraq.
Although loathe to focus overmuch on a diatribe that I found to be drivel at best, allow me to use some obvious examples of glaring ignorance as a springboard of sorts for launching my thesis. The letter begins with the rhetorical question any debater would adore: who has a vested interest in Iraqi oil? Any properly educated high school student could answer in a flash: with the economic health of oil-dependent countries directly correlating to the availability of said energy resource, and with OPEC nations directly controlling an inordinately large portion of the world's oil, any change in the political equilibrium of those 11 nations directly affects our economy. In other words, when OPEC sneezes, America catches a cold. Concerns for Alaska's education system aside, this non sequitur clearly illustrates the lack of understanding among Americans for the global economic system that allows us the very excesses we consider our due as citizens of a developed nation.
Mr. Thibodeau lends my letter a great service in that he illustrates multiple facets of the very incognizance I aim to denunciate: his description of Iraq as a "country the size of California" speaks a lack of geographical knowledge (an additional 13,307 square miles seems more than a detail). An historian might also find some humor in the idea of war being used for the purpose of "throwing down Communist Russia." The last time I looked, the downfall of the Soviet Union was attributed to economic collapse.
In one way, the letter is in fact incredibly educational: it serves as a manifesto of sorts for the depressingly large "school-yard mentality" sector of our population. Democracy is based on the premise of an educated public; without the knowledge necessary for participation, the line between citizen and subject becomes malignantly blurred.
M. Lee Warren