Thursday, December 20, 2012

Avoiding The Jim Cunningham Defense


As humans we should be questioning everything.   With that desire to question, we should be tolerant of the quest for understanding.  True ignorance is intolerant of both the questioning and the desire to question.

The printed word should constantly be under scrutiny.

 When the recent tragedy occurred in Connecticut, a meme circulated attributing a sentimental quote to actor Morgan Freeman.  Hundreds of thousands of people had shared and ‘liked’ the meme at the time I had seen it.
Snopes.com later debunked the meme, and Freeman made public statements claiming that the words where not his.

I enjoyed the variety of reaction to the news that the statement was not Freeman’s.  Some became minimally angered at the statement and the fact they where duped.  Others laughed it off as another reason never to trust the internet.  Some felt so captivated by the words that they did not care it was fake; they thought the sentiment better than the incorrect nature of the origin.

That last group made me stop and ponder.  Although something is inherently a façade, people will still adhere to it because it’s a message that they want to hear.  For its modern incarnation in relation to the internet, I wish to give it a more modern moniker.  Therefore, I will dub the belief in something even when it has been deemed wrong as the “Jim Cunningham Defense.”
 Jim Cunningham was a character in the cult hit Donnie Darko.  Played by the late, great Patrick Swayze, the film’s self-help guru maintained a “kiddie porn dungeon.”  Beloved by so many in the town, Cunningham found a champion in Kitty Farmer (portrayed excellently by Beth Grant).  Farmer refuses to acknowledge Cunningham’s elicit ways because she has such devotion to his ludicrous positive affirmations.
 With so many taking ‘The Cunningham Defense’ with the false Freeman statement about gun control, I wonder what other statements, current and ancient, have been falsely credited.  When I think of the history books full of wise sayings, some originating from before written history, I wonder how much faith I can put into so many bold quotes.  For too long I had taken for granted their attributions.

BRIEF ASIDE: Now, I will not delve into conspiracy theories that someone orchestrated this disgusting event to bring about the argument over gun rights.  I don’t think—wait, let me rephrase that—I don’t believe that someone would do something so heinous just to initiate debate on a topic.  But as the Gulf of Tonkin has taught me, anything is possible.  What I will say is that people do wait for events to spring up so as to be opportunistic with pushing through an agenda.  Like I said, that’s an argument for another day.

I encourage students to understand that some elements of history are unverifiable.  Other recorded parts have been biased.  Challenge what you have read.  If a teacher won’t entertain enlightened discourse that may deviate from what has been published in the texts, then that teacher does not merit a spot at the head of the class.

Let me not focus entirely on history.  Everything needs to be questioned.  Science.  Faith.  Math.  At one point tomatoes were deemed evil.  One person challenged that notion by eating a bushel of tomatoes on the church steps.  Had it not been for that person, pizza would suck. 

When others don’t permit such pursuits, they reveal their fear.  Some people are so frightened of being wrong that they will cling to false beliefs to comfort them.  As long as you can ignore their intolerance, you will excel.  And your pizza will taste great, too.

Avoid the “Jim Cunningham Defense.”  Even if something may be a message you don’t want to hear, don’t shut yourself off from it.  Question it; challenge it; debate it.  Even when others doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion, stand strong.  If the Morgan Freeman incident has taught us anything, it’s that nothing should be taken at face value.  That includes statements proven false that the masses still embrace.

Keep rising from the graves of ignorance, my Zombies.

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