Another thing that interests me is how people always take historical quotations at face value.
For one example, Robin Edgar recently quoted P.T. Barnum in saying "More persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing in nothing, than by believing too much."
The quote itself is nothing unreasonable. I don't agree with him as my spiritual method is to start with believing in nothing, and then see what the evidence your life presents forces you to believe. If you're not believing in much, to my thinking, you might just be early in the process, while if you're believing too much, you haven't started yet. I'm sure a lot of fine people agree with him, though.
But P.T. Barnum made his living by never underestimating the credulousness of the American people. He claimed to have mermaid's remains, after all.
Maybe when he talks about lack of belief being a bad thing, he has his own agenda. It would have been a bad thing for his bottom line, after all.
Similarly, every hippie I've ever known has brought up Nixon saying that the vietnam war protests really made a difference.
So the most famously treacherous president in American history had a moment of candor and told people that a practice of his opponents' that some argue makes them look stupid and alienates people from their cause, was actually something that made a difference in his decision-making when he made decisions that seem to fit well with his overall approach to foreign policy anyway, and we believe him?
So now we have hippies who think that getting on the news with a giant "Fuck Bush,' sign "really makes a difference" all because Richard Nixon said so.
I think he's right.
As old ladies, young families and religious people who don't like war see what antiwar protesters look like, they turn off their televisions and abandon any thought of joining the movement.
It does make a difference. Exactly the difference a Republican would want.
But every protester to ever mention it quoted that line to me straight, as if there was no possible way that Richard Nixon could have been anything less that downright candid when he said it.
It's not like he was a famous weasel or anything.