Ignorance Is Not Bliss

By Hillary Taylor

Because I’m a ministry nerd, I’ve been reading a lot about religious pluralism. One pamphlet I’ve gathered from Clergy Beyond Borders contains a very pertinent quote from Rev. Dr. Diana Eck of Harvard University. In the pamphlet, she writes that in the world today, “our ignorance of one another will be increasingly costly.”

Dr. Eck’s quote isn’t particularly unique. Most of us would argue that ignoring other people is bad. However, there’s also a part of us that doesn’t mind not knowing about the travesties of the world. We believe in a little phrase.

Ignorance is bliss!

Out of sight, out of mind, right? I mean, we’re Furman students! We go to the second most rigorous college in the nation! We don’t have time to focus on much else other than academia. That’s why most of the students leave the football games between the first and second quarters. I’d be willing to say that most of us actually leave the game to go and do homework.

Before September 21st, I might even have agreed on those subjects

The day before the 21st, a classmate e-mailed me about participating in the rally for Troy Davis. It took me a while to remember the Amnesty International flyers from last year, but I finally recalled the name. Troy Davis, an African American male, was sentenced to death in 1991. His crime was murdering a white policeman, Mark MacPhail, who was off duty.

The only problem is that there is no DNA evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt. They’ve never found a murder weapon, and the only evidence the prosecution possessed was 9 witnesses claiming his guilt. Since 1991, seven of the 9 witnesses have withdrawn their claims. So in sum, the accusations came from 2 witnesses and MacPhail’s family

Not knowing any details about the Troy Davis case, I agreed to help lead the vigil. I felt very ill-equipped, like I was preaching at a funeral of someone I’d never met. When I went to meet my friends outside the library, I met colleagues prepared to fight injustice. They handed out flyers, passionately chanted rallying cries, and gave me statistics I had never dreamed of hearing. For instance, did you know that the U.S. has executed over 1,200 criminals since 1976? That according to the World Coalition, our country legally killed 46 people in 2010, and that this statistic puts us near North Korea, who killed about 60 people in the same time period? My international friends knew all of these stats. They knew the whole history of the case. And there I was, a native of the United States, a college student born to privilege, who would rather watch Glee than understand the injustice of our judicial system. I was ignorant of how any one of us, with the right prosecution, can be put to death for a crime we may not have committed.

So what is it exactly that I want to convey? My point is that ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance makes us unaware of issues that really matter in the political life of our country. The implications of Troy Davis’s execution are that it doesn’t matter whether the justice system has hard evidence or not. If people want to convict us, if justice must be served, it can be served in truly proving our guilt. Ignorance also robs us of our duty to one another as human beings. If we are going to truly look out for one another and value our lives as much as the lives of others, then we must follow the words of Desmond Tutu: “My humanity is bound up in yours.”

There are still millions of people in this country who know nothing about Troy Davis…will you be the one to help enlighten them?

Categories: Opinions

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