Tetmeyer: It’s more than a story

Opinion Editor Caleb Weingarten discusses why we should all care about the issues around us.

Grant Tetmeyer

I love stories. I love plays, movies, TV shows, books and DND fantasy podcasts. Anything that paints vivid, lively worlds that have the ability to ensnare you for a few hours or days or longer. I was watching HBO’s “Fahrenheit 451,” which is an adaptation of the Ray Bradbury novel of the same name. As we were watching, my girlfriend told me that she didn’t really get why they would care so much about burning books. After all, they were just stories, and stories don’t really do much other than entertain us, right? 

Since we could tell them, stories have never been just stories. They have never served the simple function of providing us with humorous anecdotes or dramatic pleasantries that help us feel like English class in middle school wasn’t a complete waste of time and effort. Stories have helped shape cultures; they have been the driving forces for historical events; they have even changed the way we think and behave. Santa Claus is known worldwide, and the story of him delivering toys to children in one night has turned into a multi-billion dollar holiday industry. Millions of people celebrate the single holiday every year. 

We have to remember that “Mein Kampf” was used to help inspire an entire country to participate, actively or complacently, in a massive atrocity. “Catcher in the Rye” inspired Mark David Chapman to shoot a musical genius in John Lennon, depriving us of an untold number of musical gems that died with John. “The Turner Diaries” saw itself inspire the Oklahoma bombing that killed 168 people, including 19 children. Even Charles Manson was inspired by the book “Stranger in a Strange Land,” and we all know how that guy turned out and all the things he’s done. 

It’s not just books. Ronald Regan has the movie “Taxi Driver” to thank for inspiring John Hinckley Jr. to try and kill him outside the D.C. Hilton in 1981. He ended up killing James Brady, leading to Brady’s Law, and is the reason we all have to wait three days to get a handgun. “Natural Born Killers” inspired a young couple to take on a cross-country crime spree and then brag about it to their friends before they were arrested. “Fight Club” inspired a series of bombings by a member of a real-life fight club. “The Dark Knight,” one of the best superhero movies ever, inspired a number of attacks by people inspired by the movie and its primary villain. 

All of these stories are celebrated in our society and have endured for decades after their original creation; the events they inspired have helped shape the world. Yet, most of us may never appreciate or get that. That these simple stories can shape our lives. That words printed on a page or heard on a screen can fundamentally alter ourselves and the people around us. The incredible power held in stories and displayed by storytellers is something that is far too often overlooked and ignored. So I ask all of you: think about the next thing you watch or read. Examine it, enjoy it, live in the story. Because you never know what it may hold or how it may affect you. It may inspire you to change the world for good or bad. Only time and the story can tell.