During the 17th and 18th century, politics, science, communications, and philosophy reformed as Enlightenment intellectuals in Britain, France and throughout Europe probed established authority and encompassed the concept that civilization could be improved through rational change. The Enlightenment periods produced many books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, laws, wars and revolutions. However, throughout the 20th century there has been an ongoing debate about the decline in intellectualism across America.
“This mindless tolerance, which places observable scientific facts, subject to proof, on the same level as unprovable supernatural fantasy, has played a major role in the resurgence of both anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism.”
- Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason
In Susan Jacoby’s book “The Age of American Unreason” she unraveled the crisis of anti-intellectualism. Jacoby demonstrates that Americans are a bunch of non-reading, television-addicted, science-ignorant fundamentalists who vote for buffoons because we have a culture that loathes the intellectuals who should be leading us. This gives a fair explanation as to why we somehow elected the former reality-show star President Donald Trump.
During President Obama’s commencement speech at Rutgers University in 2016, he addressed America’s growing ignorance to facts and science and the push for “anti-intellectualism” under the mask of “political-correctness” during Trump’s campaign. Obama also urged students to use self-reason and question what they are being told by leaders, reading on the internet, and hearing in the news.
Although Trump’s first weeks of Presidency have been chaotic, there are signs that our nation may undergo a new age of reason as there is growing skepticism, activism, and awareness of our country’s issues that have been quietly gone unrecognized. I hate to say this, but if Donald Trump did not win the election, the “Women’s March” would not have happened. Furthermore, the current protests sparked by Trump’s Executive Order against Muslim resentment and anti-immigration created an outrage that would not have happened if Hillary Clinton was elected. Americans are finally opening their eyes and realizing that racism, misogyny, xenophobia, islamophobia, and homophobia have always existed in our country. It just took the election of Donald Trump to face and open the conversations about these vile parts of our American culture.