Lies, Superstitions, and Old Wives’ Tales

How can Donald Trump run for President in 2024 if the “Big Lie”, which is that he is still president because the election was stolen from him, is true? Isn’t he admitting he lost the 2020 election? We hear lots about this “Big Lie” but there are many others. The theory seems to be that which is repeated often enough must be true. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute, which I am sure is a fun place to work, says that every Friday the 13th is hard on business, with estimates of losses to the tune of $800 million to $900 million. Some people are too superstitious to go out to take care of business or to go shopping. And yet, there is no real evidence that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, but this old wives’ tale has proven to be very prolific.

An old wives’ tale is a “supposed truth which is actually spurious or a superstition.”  Spurious means that the “truth” is based on bad reasoning or false ideas. “Follow the science” is a current refrain, but old wives’ tales are not based on logical thinking or science. They are superstitions that help us feel safer, healthier or happier, which we all want. After all, I’m not going to pull out that single gray hair because 2 more will grow in its place! Now almost all pregnant women find out the sex of their baby before they are too far along, but prior to ultrasound how did women deal with the question? They tied their wedding ring on a string and hung it over their pregnant belly, if it swung in a circle it’s a girl and if it swung back and forth it’s a boy. If the ultrasound showed your baby was a girl but the “swing” test showed your baby was a boy, which would you believe? If Facebook says the Covid vaccine will implant a microchip in you, but medical professionals say this is not true, who will you believe?  Conspiracy theories are based on false ideas, and we know how prolific conspiracy theories are.  If your family, friends, culture, and your news sources all agree on what is true, you are likely to accept their truths as your own, even if their “truth” is a lie.

I know I heard, and I’m sure many of you did too, “Don’t sit too close to the T.V. you’ll go blind.” Not true!   But sitting too close to the T.V. in the 1960’s ,when G.E. produced a color T.V. that emitted 100,000 times the amount of radiation than was considered safe, was not a good idea. The t.v.s were immediately recalled. So a kernel of truth for a very brief period of time, and the old wives tale lives on. What used to be true, might no longer be true. There may be new information which supersedes old beliefs. Keep an open mind we’re told, but certainity is much more comfortable than anxious uncertainty. When doing “A” always leads to “B” we know what to expect so our anxiety is lessened.

And while you are reading this, stop cracking your knuckles or you’ll get arthritis. Seems to make sense, almost sounds like medical advice, but scientists and doctors have not been able to link cracking your knuckles to arthritis. Nor is there medical evidence to suggest that if you cross your eyes too long they will stay that way. And speaking of eyesight, eating a ton of carrots will not guarantee good eyesight. As a child some of these old wives’ tales kept me in line and also eating lots of carrots. I have worn glasses since my late 30’s anyway. What about vaccines for Covid and all sorts of diseases? Do they cause sterility or autism?

We all want to know how to ward off evil spirits or the devil, don’t we? Throw some salt over your left shoulder where the devil is and you will blind him and be safe. I suppose angels must be on your right side, so should you throw sugar over your right shoulder? I am convinced that bad things come in threes, but of course if you look for it you can make anything look like one of the three. I still find myself thinking and saying this, but of course it’s just a silly superstition. Meanwhile I walk with my head down hoping to spot that lucky penny.

The Information Age with internet, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Google means we are bombarded everyday with information that may or may not be true. Old wives’ tales and superstitions are unlikely to be dangerous misinformation, but what about the “Big Lie” and the January 6 picnic at the capital?

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