I have always been fascinated by the strip that appears in the comic section of many newspapers—Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The strip is self-described as “where the unbelievable comes alive right before your eyes!“ In many vacation spots there are Ripley’s Museums displaying the curious, weird, and exotic that leave you wondering whether to believe it or not.
In recent years I have been left with the feeling with the daily news that I am not sure whether I should believe it or not. It is not that I distrust mainstream news sources for I generally do. I also know the purveyors of conspiracies and misinformation that I know not to believe.
It is not simply the source of the news that leaves me with doubts, but rather it is the news itself that leaves me with a sense of disbelief. Have you had the experience of hearing or reading the news being reported and exclaiming, “I cannot believe that is true!”?
For example, I recently learned from several totally reliable news sources that the number one cause of death in young children in America is gun violence. We may not want to believe it, but it is true. I once was able to recite the first several schools in which there were mass murders of children and teachers, but the number of mass murders has accelerated at such a pace that I cannot keep up with them. I cannot believe that this problem exists only in America among the developed countries of the world, but the statistics are clear that it does.
I have trouble believing it, but the number one response among elected leaders about gun violence is to call for divine intervention with prayers and our serious thoughts. I do not want to believe that voters will continue to support elected officials who will do nothing to end gun violence.
Believe it or not, a school division near Northern Virginia hired as its superintendent with the permission of the State Department of Education a person with no educational training or experience. He has already banned more than a dozen books from the school libraries with the instructions that copies of these books be delivered to his office. In an earlier incident a parent was quoted as saying that some books should be burned. The same superintendent has listed closing the school libraries as being the first thing he would do if the school budget must be reduced!
Some of the most unbelievable actions in state government in recent years relate to denying women their reproductive rights. In some states any activities related to abortion are defined as felonies with harsh punishments for women and healthcare professionals involved. It is unbelievable that many of the legislators who seek to end abortion are the same ones who oppose programs designed to help children in housing, food, medical care, and other support.
There are many more examples that I find difficult to believe but can be verified. At the same time there are some who want to use misinformation and conspiracy theories to create a different reality. We need to distinguish the two and help others to see the difference as well.