Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Umbrella Man

Every once in a while, I post that I'm thinking about the lesson of the umbrella man.  I feel like I should explain what the umbrella man is and what I think the lesson is.  Since I am essentially Wikipedia on a couple of subjects, I wanted to add to my collection:

The umbrella man was a man in the infamous Zapruder film and other photographs that were taken during the JFK assassination.  The man was holding an umbrella which he opened as the limousine approached.  He put on kind of a show.  Because it was the JFK assassination, there were conspiracy theories trying to point this man as someone who was signaling when to shoot the President or maybe he was concealing a shooter from view on the film.  The man did not know he was so wanted by the public until an appeal from the House Select Committee on Assassinations initiated a public appeal to find out who this man was.

Instead of signaling for an assassination or to conceal his fellow conspirators, he was doing something much more complicated.  He was protesting the support of Kennedy's father for the great appeaser, Neville Chamberlain.  His argument was that the black umbrella was the trademark fashion accessory of Chamberlain and since Kennedy's thesis was on appeasement, he would get this strange protest.

This protest, if seen, by Kennedy probably never registered.  Instead, we were left for 15 years wondering what this man was doing.

The lesson to me is that people do strange things for strange but almost always their own reasons.  If someone is doing something strange, there is, in all probability, a much more unlikelier explanation of why they are doing what they are doing.  Instead of jumping to conspiracy theories or what we seem to think are crazy explanations, we should try to address the person committing the action for the explanation.  Or we can just stop deciding the reason someone takes a particular action.

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