skeptic: 2. a doubting or incredulous person
cynic: 3. exhibiting feelings ranging from distrustful doubt to contemptuous and mocking disbelief
I'm not sure when this happened, becoming a skeptic, a cynic. Not in boyhood--I'm pretty sure of that. I believed pretty much everything I heard, everything I saw. I think about that movie with Ricky Gervais a few years ago--The Invention of Lying (2009). The world of that film was really a world of childhood: Everyone believes everything; no one lies.
Until, of course, someone does. And the world then becomes what it is--a vast collection of deceivers. (Link to film trailer.)
And so it was, in 1940s and 50s Oklahoma, I grew up believing cowboys were better than Indians, that only heroism was at stake in the Alamo, that Davy Crockett was flawless, that cowboys sometimes stopped shooting to sing a song, that Mousketeer Doreene would like me (if she only knew me), that God would strike dead those boys who swore on the playground (He didn't; I joined them), that black people belonged in the back of the bus and at different schools. Such was my world.
In college, an English major, I first began reading writers who didn't celebrate life but who satirized it, who saw in it a darkness that rejected all light, who questioned the way things are, wondered why they couldn't be another way.
Out on my own, I was shocked to learn about all the lying about Vietnam. My dad was a veteran of two wars (World War II, Korea--though he did not go abroad for the latter), and he steadfastly refused to believe the government would lie. I begged to differ. And the differing became so profound that my brothers and I eventually agreed we would not discuss the war with Dad: It was too upsetting for all of us.
And as the years rolled on, and as I read more and more, as I saw and heard more and more, I began to realize that most of it was, at the least, questionable. "Open to question"--as the saying once went.
Even later, I learned about what psychologists call the "confirmation bias"--our preference for believing only that information that fits with what we already believe. We hate Obama, so we are happy to believe he wasn't born here, that he had some sort of nefarious plan to destroy democracy and become a dictator, that Obamacare is some kind of Socialist Evil.
We hate Trump, so we are happy to believe that he's in Putin's pocket, that his tax returns contain dark secrets, that he's clueless, the puppet of the Kremlin and Steve Bannon.
We blame Obama for all of the economy's ills--give him no credit for the recovery; we credit Trump for this month's gains, although they are merely in line with what was already going on.
And on and on and on.
Now, I actually do believe some of those things about Trump, and until he releases his returns, till we know everything about the Russian involvement in our election (and we must admit, don't we, that it happened on some level?), I will remain skeptical about him. Deeply so.
But I'm skeptical about almost everything now. When I see a story in my news feeds that seems too awesome to be true, well, that's because it probably is not true--or has been slanted/exaggerated/altered beyond recognition. Folks on both ends of the political continuum do that these days. Distort. Even fabricate. You must be careful.
I am a political liberal, a life-long Democrat, and I believe that the government needs to help people--in all kinds of ways--improved public schools (greatly improved), health care for all, public amenities and necessities (roads, bridges, fire and police protection, libraries, etc.). I believe some fundamental institutions can not be for-profit (schools, colleges, health care), for the profit motive puts profit first, people second (or not at all).
And we need regulations because, well, people cheat. In every profession and enterprise. When I was teaching, I would not pass out tests to the kids, then go to the teachers' lounge for coffee. Trust must ever be balanced with Distrust (and Cynicism). When people bark about removing regulations, this is what I immediately think: They want to cheat.
Just a cynic, I guess.
... To be continued ... maybe ...