Like a beam of sun shining down on me, last Friday, a beacon of joy landed in my inbox. Here’s what it said: “Even with Alzheimer’s, Ronald Reagan had his lucid moments while president.” Citing Reagan’s diary, from an entry dated May 17, 1986, as the source, the email went on to read: “A moment I’ve been dreading, George [VP George H.W. Bush] brought his ne’er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida [that’d be our pal Jeb]. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I’ll call Kinsley over at the New Republic and see if they’ll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work.”
Well, I did what any Bush-hater would; I forwarded it to my family and coworkers immediately. Within five minutes, I got tons of replies, generally along the lines of “Amazing!” “Fantastic!” or “Wow, Reagan wasn’t as much of a tool as I thought!”
But then came the buzz-kill, in the form of a Snopes link and a brief note of condolence (snopes.com/politics/satire/Kinsley.asp). I followed the link and discovered the real source, a satirical piece written by Michael Kinsley for the New Republic.
Alas. I was the tool.
Now, while Snopes is lovable for its spam- and annoying-urban-myth-debunking magic (“Bill Gates is offering a $1,000 reward to everyone who forwards this email”? I don’t think so!), it is in moments like this that I find myself resenting it, for raining on my parade. Feeling ashamed and foolish, I penned my rueful retractions to those who’d responded so enthusiastically, and was reminded of that old axiom, don’t believe everything you read.
Although, on further consideration, I chose to reflect on another wise quote, from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: “It’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.” And so, I’ll choose to believe it.