Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Never Forget" To Heal, Not Hate

I'm weary of the "never forget" sentiment we so often express after a tragedy because I don't think it's usually meant as a door or a path to healing. It seems to me that it's meant as plea to remain wounded and to inflict harm on others as revenge. While I'm sure there are some people who claim to see the "never forget" declaration positively, I think it's never going to be pure for them; it will always be debased and corrupted by the negative side of the assertion. I don't know of an ideal solution, but whatever it may be it will need to contain the idea that the horrible acts of our past shouldn't rule our future.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Need For Heroes, Regular And Super

One of the types of stories that get regularly refuted by the people at Snopes and other organizations are ones based on the hero motif. One example of this can be found in a posting called "Pentagon Daycare Corral" from In this story a group of marines is falsely given credit for rescuing 40 children from a Pentagon day care center on Sept. 11, 2011 in the wake of the crash of Flight 77 into the building. In another Snopes story called "Home Invasion Thwarted," a false story about an 11-year-old girl killing intruders is revealed.

There are surely thousands, maybe millions, of stories like this we humans have been sharing with one another since we began to tell stories. The need to come up with heroes seems to be innate, driving us to believe them to be true, even when they've been discredited. We want heroes to praise and in some cases even worship and stories allow that to happen.

When thinking about this I can't help but also include all of the religious tales humans have always been telling. Not all hero stories are religious--stories about Paul Bunyan and George Washington are two common examples--but I don't think there's a religion that doesn't contain a plethora of them. They seem to be required to form a religion, and so much so that hero stories will be concocted from scratch to support the religion. And because we tend to like these stories enough to believe them without too much scrutiny, their connected religions become believable too.

With that being said, the reason I thought about writing this short piece on this topic that has been covered over and over by many others, is my thoughts about the relatively new phenomenon of the superhero. What is probably a 20th century invention seems to coincide with the growing acceptance of science in the 19th century, which got another big boost with Albert Einstein's discoveries in the early 20th century. Even if it was only at a subconscious level, people must have had a sense that insurmountable evidence was being accumulated for religions and their heroes to continue being taken as truthful. This is a guess, but in response I suspect that some people came up with the superhero--figures like Superman--to leap over the new scientific evidence that was killing the old heroes. A "super" hero could withstand the attacks of science, and maybe even integrate into a new society that was abandoning old myths and the heroes contained within them.

Even if this notion is true, we still create "regular" heroes like the ones mentioned in the two Snopes stories above. For whatever reasons, we just like heroes, super or not. And if there aren't any real ones, we'll create them when we feel the need.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The False Virtue Of Personal Beliefs

Story: Tow truck driver refuses to tow motorist over Bernie bumper sticker

Within this story is the ridiculous but accepted idea that it is a virtue for people to "fight for what they believe in."

"Something came over me, I think the Lord came to me, and he just said get in the truck and leave," said Ken Shupe of Shupee Max Towing in Traveler's Rest, S.C.  "And when I got in my truck, you know, I was so proud, because I felt like I finally drew a line in the sand and stood up for what I believed."

When people act on their beliefs simply because they are beliefs, then that person is immoral because beliefs are not virtuous by default. They can be absolutely horrible, as is the case with this tow truck driver who left a woman stranded on the side of the highway because she had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker.

We need to quit promoting this anything-goes-if-I-believe-it claim as something worthy of praise. Our attention should be on the results of actions claimed to be based on beliefs, which have no basis for being considered virtuous simply because they exist.

If your beliefs suck, then they deserve to be abandoned. That is the virtuous thing to do.