There was a double murderer in Ohio who was sentenced to death. He argued that his morbid obesity made lethal injection inhumane since it would be difficult to find a vein amid all his blubber, in essence, that he was too fat to die. Ohio didn’t buy it, and had him injected with the lethal cocktail anyway the other day. It turns out he was laboring under a false assumption. The technicians had no difficulty at all finding a handy vein, and he was most certainly not too fat to die. The odds are overwhelming that tomorrow will bring similar reports as to his fate. Dead guys, really fat or otherwise, tend to stay that way. You’ve got to be careful about the assumptions you make.

Many of us labor under false assumptions. While most of our assumptions are not as delusional as the fat Ohio murderer’s, they can do us harm. The saying that what you don’t know can’t hurt you is nonsense. Didn’t we all figure that our banks were safe? We did. This, in spite of the widespread reports in recent years of the executives of these publicly held corporations helping themselves to tens of billions of dollars of other people’s money in the form of yearly bonuses. Did we think these guys earned these bonuses while we were lucky to get a lousy 2% interest on our savings and practically paying them to have a checking account? On top of their annual multi-million dollar salaries? So exactly why we trusted these guys not to blow our dough drinking champagne out of hookers’ high heels and snorting cocaine off their naked butts is a mystery. We humans are pretty stubborn about our underlying assumptions.

We also assumed that this banking crisis that threatens our nation’s stability and millions of people’s financial well-being would be at least interesting. Guess again. Here we all are, trying desperately to learn all we can about the nuts and bolts of the financial markets and why they went kablooey and we realize it’s still as tedious as watching golf to most of us and the only reason any of these people went to work in such a boring line of work was because they are very greedy. There are exactly no fascinating people involved in these scandals, nothing dramatic going on but personal avarice and incompetence and the whole world of big banks, investment houses and insurance companies is one giant yawn. Try as we may to understand it or assign to it some alluring flair or attraction, it’s just no good. It’s a huge bore and another set of assumptions about an interesting quest are dashed.

And didn’t many of us assume that Reality Television shows would simply disappear, an irritating experiment that would soon quietly go the way of Segway scooters and salad shooters? Who knew we’d be hip-deep in Flava Flav and his bitches and ‘hos and wrinkly old Hugh Hefner drooling over his hired girlfriends? Some of us now live in fear of Hef actually disrobing on camera and causing us to lose our lunch. Be careful what you assume. 

Similarly, many Americans thought it would be a cool idea to elect a president that was dumber than the average statue, maybe figuring what’s the harm in having a little fun with our government? Who knew even a dim bulb like Bush The Younger would invade the wrong country when our nation was attacked? Woops! Who’s laughing now with our multi-trillion dollar deficits and a new Vietnam with no easy way out while the people who attacked us run free and make more videos than a rap star? Go figure, eh?

Well, at least we can assume the world will keep on turning and the seasons will progress as usual in an orderly fashion; Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Oh, wait! There’s global warming going on, isn’t there? It just might be that the four seasons will soon be Summer, Summer, Summer and Hell. And all those coastlines we’ve carefully mapped and where so many of us now reside? If those ice caps melt it might be a good idea to apply for a job at Rand-McNally to re-chart the world and relocate to the Atlantic coast of Ohio. Or the Pacific coast of Colorado. Assuming, of course, we don’t drown first.

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