Saturday, June 2, 2012

You Wouldn't Jump off a Bridge

I want to preface this with the statement that I love my friends, and I choose carefully whom I bring into my circle, even my social media circle.

I value intelligence, creativity and education certainly, but I also put a great deal of stock in the ability to question that which is put before you as a fact. I grew up in a household that embraced and encouraged independent thought.  When I would come home from school and summarily beg to do or buy whatever thing some girl at school had, the conversation went something like this.

Well if Suzy jumped off the Mackinac Bridge, would you do it?

The obvious answer was no, I would not jump off the bridge.
Well then let’s not worry about what Suzy is doing then.

It was a frustrating argument (yet I like to believe I made some pretty compelling arguments in favor of bridge jumping) because it was putting independent thought and action ahead of that ‘going with the crowd’ mentality that permeates school from oh, kindergarten to grade 12. 

When I graduated from High School, I had developed enough freedom of personality to realize that some people are followers, and some are leaders. I endeavored to be a leader, and erroneously believed that the vast majority of the people I would encounter after high school would feel the same way. The age of ‘following the leader,’ I thought had ended.  I couldn’t have possibly realized at eighteen years old how incredibly wrong I could be.

When a person dies, they lose all rights to privacy because, well, they’re dead.  Medical records, documents, that embarrassing middle name, that first questionable marriage, and just about everything that was once considered personal information becomes public domain. 
The unfortunate part of this is that, apparently, the dead’s thoughts and ideas also become public property, and can be altered to fit whatever agenda might need a spokesperson.  That combined with that modern blight on society-- the Facebook Meme--total falsehoods can now be spread like a cancer in less time than it takes to point, click, and share. 

What is it about our society that no matter how ludicrous the statement, if it’s attached to an important name many will believe it without question? Furthermore, what about our modern social media mentality allows some to believe that if an outlandish statement is attributed to a revered Founding Father or other historical figure, those of us with opposing viewpoints are suddenly going to change course without question.

Well I thought that the concept of not paying any taxes was oversimplified and illogical, but hey Lincoln said that the Tea Party is the smartest thing to come along since Warren G. Harding, so I guess I’ll just change my entire socio/political viewpoint, like now.”

I’m also somewhat puzzled that in this age of instant information, anyone wouldn’t take five seconds and attempt to establish validity.

Hmmm, this quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson seems to speak directly to this exact cause--A cause that would not have been an issue during his lifetime. Maybe I should make sure this Jefferson quote about Goodyear Tires is accurate before I smear it all over my social media and my friends pick it up and smear it around too.

I realize the desire to give a beloved social or political cause real validity is a strong one.  As anyone who knows me will tell you, I have strong opinions about, well everything, and champion some pretty outlandish ideas, like that as a woman I should have equal pay and freedom to made decisions about my own body. 

I do find it reassuring when Thomas Jefferson said something that reinforces a belief  I hold dear, and I’m disappointed when I find a famous individual that I admire said something that disagrees with me.  (I have not, as yet, found a quote in which Thomas Jefferson discussed the reproductive freedoms of women, but I secretly think he would have been on my side.)

However, I would never attempt to spread an untrue “Jefferson/ women’s rights quote” as the truth in order to lend credence to my cause because it cheapens the cause in the same breath that it cheapens the memory old Tom.  And also, some of my friends are WAY smarter than I am, and would know that Jefferson never said anything on the subject.  When they realize that, it invalidates everything else I’ve ever said on the subject because clearly I just make things up.  Suddenly my beloved cause is suffering because I jumped the shark in terms of “quotable support” for Women’s Reproductive Rights.

So in short, my advice to everyone: 
Fact check, and don’t jump off the bridge just because Lincoln said it was a good idea.

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