I’m having some issues with my gullibility, and I blame my parents. Yes, at forty-six I still am inclined to blame my parents for any lapses in my person, a culpability that covers everything from my loathing of polyester, to my crooked front teeth, to my tendency to believe everything anyone tells me.
I believe this stems from The Edge of Night.
My parents were diligent in the supervision of appropriate television viewing for me and my sister. The Walton’s, Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness, Disney, and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Oh, and Star Trek. (For which I blame them for my life-long crush on William Shatner. Yes, even after the TekWar embarrassment. He should stick to commanding spaceships.) These were the shows we were allowed to watch, for the required sixty minutes of their duration. It is a happy coincidence that these shows did not air concurrent with “The Edge of Night”, because my wicked step-mother ruled the tube for those sixty emotional minutes.
“I’m your brother’s ex-wife’s long lost twin, presumed dead but actually living in sin in Monticello.”
“I can’t believe it, not that Cavanaugh hussy?”
“Yes. It is I. And… I’m pregnant with your illegitimate child who I conceived while you were unconscious in that car wreck that left you paralysed and suffering from amnesia.”
As a child I was forever trying to catch illicit glimpses of the Drakes and the Cavanaughs as they spun their wicked webs of deceit, dressed in sparkly gowns and forever turning furrowed brows toward the camera. My step-mother would hiss and spit if she caught me lurking in the doorway to the living room during her stories.
“Good night, John-boy,” was allowed.
“I’m having an affair with your brother who is in jail, framed for the murder of your sister’s twin who was raised by your wealthy aunt who recently lost her legs in a horrible train wreck,” was not.
Which one d’ya think most grabbed my interest?
My furtive glimpses of The Edge of Night created a gullibility in my very soul. I believed in the horrible train wreck and the limbless wealthy aunt, as did my evil step-mother, but I was ten. I can be forgiven.
Now, as an adult, I am faced with the internet. And I believe it all.
Ok, not all. I don’t believe that I can lose fifty pounds “with this one weird tip”. I don’t believe those are real breasts on the women that appear on the sidebar offering to chat with me. I don’t believe Lady Gaga is a real person.
But I did believe the Morgan Freeman commentary on the Connecticut shooting. To the point that I shared it with my class and we had great discussions about weapons regulations and mental health, but it was a lie. Not from Mr. Freeman. I felt like a fraud, and then had great discussions with my class about the validity of the internet, and how can we protect ourselves from lies.
But I didn’t learn.
I thought the eagle picking up the baby was real too. I showed this to my class, in the two minutes before the bell rings where it’s either, “look at this cool video” or a mad stampede to be first to stand by the door, panting for freedom.
It was a lie.
Generated by students at an animation school. Clever pups.
And then, just to prove to myself that my naivety knows no bounds, I believed that the new twenty-dollar Canadian polymer bills were being recalled because there were naked women on them.
Climbing the Twin Towers.
Boobies all over the place.
I believed it, in the half-paying-attention manner that one believes the weatherman when he says it’s going to be sunny even though the cloud cover is brushing your head when you walk outside. (It does that in Nova Scotia. Then it gets sunny. Right before the freezing rain.)
“Oh really? Wow, that’s weird.”
This time, however, I checked before sharing it with my class. I didn’t have a twenty to actually, physically inspect. I’ve given all my twenties to my spawn. It’s post-Christmas after all, and twenties are a thing of the past, like candy canes and paying the bills this month. So I googled.
It’s the Vimy Ridge Memorial. The naked chicks are “Justice” and “Peace”.
This time, the internet did not lead me astray.
Someone thought the Vimy Ridge Memorial was the Twin Towers? On the Canadian twenty-dollar bill?
“Oh really? Wow, that’s weird.”
My point is that the internet confounds me. I grew up in an age when a photograph was real. And had to be sent away in the mail to be developed, and revealed ghosts and paranormal activity in blurry smudges in the background.
I grew up in a time when communicating with another person meant face to face contact, or a phone call, or a letter which took weeks to travel to and from the object of your conversation. When only politicians lied and Elvis didn’t really die. He’s just hiding.
I grew up watching lions devour tiny antelope on the plains and Papa Walton solve every difficulty faced by his loving, burlap-clad family. And Raven and Logan lit up Monticello like the shiny baubles they truly were.
I ask my students: how can we trust what we read? How do we know what’s real?
I don’t have the answer, because I’ve believed in the Loch Ness monster since birth.
There’s a picture.
It’s gotta be true.
This one, now? I’m not so sure. My newfound cynicism with all things internet leads me to wonder if this is a real turkey… or am I one?
Image: Berg, Christian. Turkey vs Windshield: Turkey wins, sort of. February 3, 2012. http://www.bowhuntingmag.com/2012/02/03/turkey-vs-windshield-turkey-wins-sort-of/