Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why People Choose to Believe Lies

It seems we are surrounded with lies and "alternate facts" and the worst hypocrisy we have seen in our lifetimes.  I am not an alarmist and I do not believe in living in fear, but I do believe we must DO SOMETHING to oppose the lies and unsubstantiated claims that are being made by Trump and his spokespeople, otherwise they will think we are all falling for it.

The reason many people believe what they hear or read without question is because they consider the sources to be authority figures.  People who voted for Trump will believe him now because if they can't believe him then they will have to admit that they made a mistake by voting for him. That extends to anyone who speaks for him.  Kellyanne Conway coined the term "alternative facts" and it has been made fun of in the press, but some will find it acceptable because she helped get Trump elected. People often don't want to think for themselves if it's easier for someone to do it for them.

I lived through a situation like this. It is a microcosm of our country now but it revealed a lot about human nature to me:

I treasured the church I grew up in. It was a second home to me. The church stood in a prime location on the main corner of my community for 150 years, but the building was about 50 years old. The denomination was declining, but our church attendance was good.  The minister decided that we should build a bigger church (which would clearly be a feather in his cap.) At first I thought it was a joke, but he put all of his efforts into convincing people we needed it. He even (unethically) gave sermons on it. The congregation was divided and a months-long battle ensued.  I unwittingly became the leader of the opposition. We were in the papers and on TV. 

When I asked people how they felt they would reluctantly tell me they really didn't want the church to move but "Rev. Cummings says we need it." I was amazed how many times I heard this. I would remind those people that the church wasn't his—it was our church. He worked for us.  

One of his biggest points was that we didn't have enough parking. Yet, when you looked in the parking lot there were always spots. We had an agreement that we could park in the grocery store lot next door if needed. In addition, there was an empty house sitting in the middle of the parking lot that had formerly been a home for the ministers but now unused.   We could just tear down that building and gain dozens of spots. People chose to completely ignore what was literally right in front of their faces.

I spoke with dozens of people who blindly followed his logic on every point and never questioned whether it made sense.  That is what is happening now. The POTUS is an authority figure and we were taught as children to obey authority. Years ago I stopped looking at physicians as authorities when I discovered they often did not have answers or were incorrect in their diagnoses. I do not disparage them, but I do not see them as all-knowing either. In the same way many people will readily take a doctor's advice without question. 

I said we must DO SOMETHING and that does not mean argue with our Facebook friends. That means write an email or make a call anytime you read or hear a false statement, especially from one of your Senators or Representatives. Remind them that they represent you and you will not accept lies and half-truths.  Make sure they know you are watching and catch them in any hypocrisy. Their jobs are in our hands.  If we allow "alternate facts" to become the norm it will be our fault for remaining silent. It's all we can do now.

PS - The church. moved five miles away into another county, split the congregation, broke up lifelong friendships as well as my heart.  They insisted they needed 30 acres for a compound of sorts which still is empty except for a medium sized church—but they have lots of parking. The pastor retired, left the congregation with a mortgage and went on to counsel other people how to break up their congregations.

1 comment:

Geoffrey A. Landis said..., what happened with the church?