The Age of [Willful] Ignorance

This past week, my husband and I went on vacation to Ocean City, MD. After going here last year, my mother-in-law decided that we should all go to the beach together this year. The wisdom to this isn’t what I’m here to talk about.

One thing she loves to do, is go out early in the morning and feed the seagulls. The black faced sea gulls (laughing gulls) are the most common around the boardwalk, with a few larger gulls mixed in. These larger gulls (herring gulls and great black-backed gulls) she refers to as albatrosses.

A group of great black-backed gulls
She called them that last year, and I had to look it up because I knew it wasn’t right. A quick search revealed that albatrosses live in the southern hemisphere and the north Pacific. There was a mention that a rare albatross sighting in Ocean City had been recorded, but this isn’t their place of habitation. And last year, I had thought that was that.

…Until she called the herring and great black-backed gulls albatrosses again.

We got back into the conversation of these aren’t albatrosses. Their wingspan is how long the body of an albatross is, and albatross has a nine to eleven foot wingspan. Nothing at all like these gulls. Her reply is what has really stuck with me.

“Well, I’ve always called them albatrosses, and for such a small thing in my life I’m not going to change that at this age.”

While calling a gull an albatross really is a small thing, it’s that attitude that I have such a huge problem. Thankfully she doesn’t do that with other things in life, but there are so many others of her generation that use that same reasoning excuse for social progression.

I’ve heard those excuses for refusal to acknowledge the existence of gay people, transgender individuals, non-bianary. Refusal to use the right gender identifiers or names. “I’m too old to change how I think.” “They’re doing it for the attention.” “Why are there so many labels?” “I can’t learn all these new words.”

I’ve even heard that in regards to religion when speaking of atheism. “They’re just being rebellious.” “They actually believe in God. They’re just mad at him.”

I don’t know how to change the problem of the willful ignorance. I don’t know how to get someone to change how they act when they know they’re wrong but are choosing to maintain the way they’ve been acting for years. I can call attention to it, but I can’t change it.

Hell, I can’t even get my mother-in-law to stop calling seagulls albatrosses.

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One thought on “The Age of [Willful] Ignorance

  1. It bothered me for years that my mother would say things that were upsetting to me. One example is the N-word would fly out of her mouth at the oddest times. Since my last conversation with my father was not a pleasant one, I decided that whenever she used the N-word, or say anything else I found repulsive, that I would politely tell her I loved her and that I had to hang up now as I had something I needed to do. I found that I had to let my anger with her go because, yes, I know this to be true, she was not going to change at her age.

    I’m now in my mid-sixties and have friends who are in their seventies and eighties who, like my mother, use expressions and have ideas and thoughts that do not jive with me. As with my mother, I’ve found that trying to change them is useless. It does more harm than good to me by my getting upset. None of us will be around for long.

    Which leads me to what does matter: the younger generation. It is those people who we should try to expose to differences from what they might be being taught (unconsciously) by these very same elders for whom there is nothing we do. Yet we can do something for those who will follow us.

    My advice (which is free) is to let it go as regards your Mother-In-Law. Worry about those close to your age and those younger – that is how we manage change.

    Liked by 1 person

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