Letter: ‘I believe’ isn’t real

Graphic by Lori Deaton

If you live in Asheville, odds are you’ve been privy to a numbing number of ‘I believe’ bumper stickers and yard signs. Mind if one suggests it is a misstep to believe those who thus believe?

The ‘I believe’ script typically references Black Lives Matter, Women Are Humans, No Person Is Illegal, Love Is Love, Science Is Real or something thereabouts.

Hard to argue with those creative mission statements, but there is one snaggy problem. Those things may be real, but the people promoting those things frequently aren’t.

Mankind’s ability to corrupt racial equality, equal rights, immigration policy, gender realities, science and everything else is exponentially unbelievable.

Part of the reason tracks to a remarkable human attachment to imagery over actuality. Is it not ironic that in our amazing age of information, the truth is harder to harvest than uranium? Rather than dig for the truth, most of us settle for comfort words marketed like cerebral Twinkies.

For a clue on what might be real, pick up a coin.

There are two sides to that coin and, depending on your direction of view, you will see something different than those looking from another angle.

This visual offers a glimpse into why our America has become so antagonistically divided. Most of us think we have the market cornered on wisdom and are satisfied to lovingly gaze at our side of the coin and — wait for it — believe.

There are exceptions.

Occasionally, there are those with the courage and conviction to live on the outside of the coin. You know, the tiny edgy part that unannouncedly serves as a bridge to the truths on either side.

Such people are rare for the reasons good and noble people have always been rare. It’s hard to live outside of habituated social norms and the comfort-food thinking that goes with those beliefs.

Truly edgy people understand that honest progress is a demanding mistress. She could give a whit about what we believe. She is very much invested in the truth in what we do.

— Carl Mumpower

Editor’s note: The writer notes that he is a practicing psychologist and former Asheville City Council member. He can be reached at drmumpower@aol.com.


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25 thoughts on “Letter: ‘I believe’ isn’t real

  1. Peter Robbins

    Would it exhibit an overattachment to imagery to observe that this letter is a pile of . . . goo?

    • NFB

      “This visual offers a glimpse into why our America has become so antagonistically divided. Most of us think we have the market cornered on wisdom and are satisfied to lovingly gaze at our side of the coin and — wait for it — believe.”

      Given that the letter writer spent eight years on City Council using his platform to lecture his colleagues and his constituents about how we are all failing to live up to his superior moral standards and in general thanking God that he is not like other men, and given that he has used his public profile in the years since for the same purposes, the kindest term to describe this letter is “ironic.” The sharper term would be “hypocritical.” The portion quoted above is beyond priceless in both these terms.

      But yeah, “pile of goo” works.

      • Carl Mumpower

        Yes, in a progressive community that finds comfort in seven shades of blue, diversity of thought is certainly an inconvenience. cm

  2. Maria C

    This letter is REAL. It is a message to ALL that there are two sides – positions – in relation to everything. And somewhere, most likely on the edge, is the TRUTH.

    A belief can be read as a lie. BE – (LIE) – VE.

  3. bsummers

    Truly edgy people understand that honest progress is a demanding mistress.

    Poetry, Carl. Pure poetry.

  4. ashevillain7

    This reads like a philosophy essay written by a high-schooler.

    “You can either be this way, that way … or edgy!”

  5. M. Rains

    We have become very polarized as a society. Mea culpa!
    In discussions/arguments with good friends and family, it takes effort on both sides to delve into why certain beliefs exist. What you often find (on both sides) are preconceptions, inherent biases, etc. These become apparent if someone actually has some facts (real facts) about the subject. Unfortunately, we live in a really dumb-downed society anymore and most people aren’t willing (or able) to dig into the facts. But in the average person’s defense, it’s not as if our society hasn’t become overly complex and one does have to make a living.

    I live by the following expression that I try and keep in mind even when espousing my opinions/viewpoints: “The truth often lies somewhere in the middle.”

    Nice article and reminder, Mr. Mumpower.

  6. WNC

    Yeap Science is real- My gender is based on how I feel today. Maybe be a man 4 of 7 days this week and next week be a woman 4 of 7 days.
    Nice to know women are human my smart, articulate and lovely wife and daughters will be glad to hear that.

      • WNC

        Don’t use your shovel to cover the unscientific, inconvenient fact progressive leadership is saying
        Chromosomes don’t matter. Just how you feel on a particular day and it is a fluid day by day decision.

        Nice try but somethings are hard to defend.

        • Peter Robbins

          The Scientific American article I linked to doesn’t say what you assume it says. Read it. It’s full of biology and stuff, not politics. But your comment does support Doctor Mumpower’s thesis about comfort food for thought. Those Twinkies sure taste good, don’t they?

        • Peter Robbins

          Just out of curiosity, though, which people in the “progressive leadership” (whatever that is) think that chromosomes have nothing whatsoever to do with gender identity? I’ve never encountered such a rascal. But if you buttonhole one, you can show him that Scientific American article and set him straight. He’ll eat crow and you’ll look enlightened. Does that solve your problem?

  7. Peter Robbins

    I wonder how Doctor Mumpower’s coin and mistress metaphors apply to biblical imagery that conflicts with actual evidence. You know, like the oft-quoted part about Adam and Steve? Too edgy?

    • WNC

      I see why you keep wanting to avoid “the science of feelings”, but taking the ball and making an end run (to the left) to throw the ball in the weeds isn’t a defense.

      • Peter Robbins

        Rather than dig for the truth, some fellers settle for comfort words marketed like cerebral Twinkies. And I’ll thank you not to refer to theology as “the science of feelings.” That’s psychology.

  8. Stan Hawkins

    It seems the issue here is “credibility” – do we have it or not? Will my / our beliefs and actions stand the test of time? Will following generations believe we were true to our message? What will our impact be on them?

    A bumper sticker was popular just a few short years ago as a statement about events happening at our southern border. These events were about individuals and children crossing / entering our southern border without permission followed by detention facilities / family separations. The bumper sticker – “Keep Families Together” included an image of two adults and two children.

    During this time, the Mt Xpress was quite enamored with posts and comments concerning the grave conditions with these children separated from their family. But now, simply “crickets” regarding 19,000 children experiencing these conditions just last month. Why is that? The problem is more serious than ever. What will following generations say about our credibility? Are we just following the political narrative handed to us when the politics is convenient?

    Dr. CM brings to light that quite often we simply don’t walk our talk. Maybe we are too busy trying to one up someone in a rebuttal to see clearly.

    See here for credible reporting:


    • Peter Robbins

      Keep digging for the truth, Stan. From yesterday’s Washington Post: “Dozens of Democratic lawmakers warned the Biden administration in a letter last week that the fast-expanding emergency shelters should be used sparingly because they ‘are not state-licensed, not appropriate for prolonged operation, and in the past have been plagued by violations and abuses.’ They urged officials to ‘facilitate the quick and safe release of children’ to their parents, vetted relatives or other sponsors.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/unaccompanied-children-parents/2021/04/19/9ce407f4-9cbc-11eb-9d05-ae06f4529ece_story.html.

      Which of your elected representatives did you contact? How may letters to the editor did you write? You don’t want future generations to think you were a slacker, do you?

  9. Shultz!

    So the author feels that because folks decide to put their beliefs on display by using a yard sign instead of something like, say, wearing a cross around their neck, that they are just posturing, have never bothered to think critically, and are just sheep. Such hubris – us unwashed masses are just so lucky to have him with us.

  10. Maria C

    It has been said that BELIEF causes separation and DOUBT brings unity.


  11. Queen Lady Passion

    Carl: Your letter ignores the right-wing “We Still Pray” campaign. ‘Conservatives’ frequently devise terms to support their suppressive bent, such as the recent phrase “cancel culture” used as a pejorative against progressives. It is not “edgy” to bemoan the people’s will for positive change and life-affirming options, as evidenced in repeated polls, surveys, and votes. Free speech manifests in many kinds of media which both sides utilize. I don’t ‘believe’ that every story has two sides, and the truth is always somewhere in the middle: Indeed, there is often one side that is just, the other, dead wrong. Oft, Repubs who seek to suppress protest, diversity, expression of higher ideals, expanding citizen care, civil rights, and justice, and to restrict voting access are on the morally wrong side that history will judge harshly. Un-clinch, Carl: It’s not too late for you to change and leave a legacy of actions taken to improve lives rather than castigate people suffering needlessly from a wide array of ills former Council members of your ilk imposed.

    • Carl Mumpower

      Hi Lady Passion – with absolutely no intended malice, may one suggest you illustrate the point of the letter?

  12. Stan Hawkins

    Here’s a few ideas and actions able WNC citizens could take to coalesce and do some good:

    1. Get out doors – don some safety vests, gloves, and collect a trash bag full of trash near where ever you hang out or reside.
    2. If you drive, carry a case of bottled water around in your back seat. Give a bottle to some one in need. As the weather warms this will be needed.

    Who knows; it might just catch on?

  13. Maria C

    This letter has produced many ideas that will indeed “catch on”. Thank you to the editors at Mountain Xpress for respecting the Free Press!

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