My resolution for the new year – the same resolve I’ve made over the past three decades – is to forgo arguments with those who hold a different point of view on matters cosmic or mundane. Discussions, yes, but not arguments that come under the rubric of the Forrest Gump Principle. Why Forrest Gump? That in a minute. First, the incident that led to my initial resolve on New Year’s Day 1982: At a holiday party I got into a heated argument with a Democratic activist over the state of the economy, in recession during Reagan’s first year as president.
Though not much when it comes to economic analysis, I did know enough to argue that bad as things seemed to be, there was reason for optimism. Christmas sales were up, I pointed out, at an all-time high; to which my verbal antagonist replied, with no hint of irony, “That’s only because people are afraid this might be the last Christmas.”
That settled it. No more arguments trying to change other people’s opinion; though that idiot response did come to mind some years later, when Charlie Thornton, Alabama’s sports information director under Coach Bear Bryant, told me of a communications problem he had following release of the Tom Hanks movie “Forrest Gump.”
Among Gump’s exploits, you’ll recall, was a four-year stint as an All-American halfback playing for Alabama. Not long after the film’s release, Thornton started getting calls and letters from fans asking what years Gump played for Bryant: “I kept telling them it was only a movie, not real life, but they didn’t believe me. So I finally made up a year – 1967 – and they’d go away happy.”
My Forrest Gump Principle, for 2014 and beyond: People are going to believe what they want to believe. Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is a fake; JFK was killed by a mafia hit man hiding on the grassy knoll; the Chicago Cubs are going to win the National League pennant next year.
Happy New Year — let’s hope, not the last one.
Sound Bite to Remember
Every man has his price. If they didn’t, people like me couldn’t exist.
— Howard Hughes