To the Editor,

After a little over 2 years on military assignment overseas, I returned home in mid-1962 on 30 days leave. I hit the streets with my best buddy, reacquainting myself with home turf. At one point, it was suggested we go to the city auditorium for an evening of a new (to me) form of entertainment growing in popularity, professional wrestling. I had seen some college-level Greco-Roman style matches, so I thought it would be great to watch some matches at the pro level. After a couple of preliminary bouts, the 2 main events began. First was a man with platinum blonde hair, wearing gold shorts & shoes vs a gigantic man wearing bib overalls and was barefoot. Second was a huge Black Man called “Bobo Brazil” as I recall vs “The Sheik” dressed in a kind of cloak, a turban, and curled up, pointy toed shoes. The antics that followed, though familiar today, were a complete shock to me. I saw it as a comedic parody of wrestling and started laughing aloud at the slapstick comedy. Shortly my buddy nudged me and whispered “careful, a lot of these folks take this very seriously.” I looked around and, noticing more than one angry glare in my direction, stifled my vocal humor. Later, over a beer, I told my friend what I had seen was nothing more than staged theatrics that had nothing to do with actual wrestling. He replied that, while he and I may see it that way, for an increasing number of devotees, it was a totally real, serious conflict and was not to be taken lightly. In a word, I was dumbfounded!

Today, more than 50 years on, a large segment of society appear to continue having difficulty differentiating between staged fantasy and reality. Scores of “reality” TV shows mesmerize huge audiences daily, somehow convincing them that what they are seeing is real, not a staged performance with pre-ordained events. Personally, I am not overly concerned about those who choose this form of entertainment. Fantasizing, for the most part, is a somewhat harmless activity. What does concern me is the growing evidence this form of conflating fact and fiction is spilling over into the world of current affairs and politics at an alarming pace. “Truth” or “fake news” is somehow becoming a matter of which group of talking heads in whom a given individual chooses to place their trust. Those who only listen to Fox News can only accept that station’s version of information, all others are false. The same is true for the followers of MSNBC or CNN. As I see it, this is primarily the result of having a pre-determined version of what one chooses to believe, then only accepting agreeing forms of information and rejecting all other information as “false”.

In today’s world, there are numerous sources of information available to anyone willing to seek them out. CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, BBC, and several other international news sources are easily accessible as well as local and national newspapers, both in print form and online. Whether or not anyone perceives a right or left slant, these are information sources. If you will make the effort to gather information from several different sources, then use your own brain to separate “facts” from “opinions”, it then becomes a matter of determining for yourself what is true or false, rather than formulating a pre-determined viewpoint based solely on what you heard someone else say. If this approach would be employed by more of us, I really believe it would help reduce the level of hate, anger and intolerance that is so prevalent today. Additionally, the employment of those extra brain cells might clear out some cobwebs and have an overall positive effect in one’s daily life.

JD Carpenter, Waxahachie