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As a child, our oldest daughter had an imaginary roomful of children: Patti, Terri, Kimmy, Vicki and baby Edward.
Whenever we traveled, all five climbed in the car. You had to hold the door until the imaginary kids all got in or the real child would shout frantically. It was cute ... the first few dozen times.
Two decades earlier, my imaginary friends had more elaborate names and more children. Mrs. Hingaling somehow lived with her 17 kids inside a tree stump that marked a corner of my parents’ property. I have no real memories of the conversations, but the grown-ups in my life later shared details.
It seems that often on my visits to the tree stump, I was accompanied by Mr. Jinglepong, a well-meaning imaginary neighborhood handyman who would run errands or perform helpful tasks for the massive Hingaling household.
A lot of children have imaginary friends. Usually, the characters disappear long before kindergarten and certainly long before college.
Last week, however, headlines were stolen by a skilled Notre Dame linebacker and the story of his imaginary girlfriend.
After the website Deadspin revealed its research on the subject, All-American football star Manti Te’o admitted his girlfriend Lennay Kekua never existed. His athletic success blossomed into fame this football season as Notre Dame qualified for the national championship game. The Te’o story gained general attention and admiration after he confronted the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day.
While his grandmother was real, now it’s known that his girlfriend and her battle with leukemia were not.
Te’o released a statement saying he was embarrassed over becoming the victim of a “sick joke.” Although he relayed details of the girlfriend’s life, he says their long-distance relationship was faked by others and he was the victim.
It sounds to me like his imagination still is going strong.
Lance Armstrong was making headlines last week too. He imagined that his Tour de France success made him invincible and provided a license to violate most any regulation and justified telling lies about most anyone that got in his way.
And then there’s the story about the world leader who imagines a peaceful world free of gun violence. In order to accomplish this ideal environment, he also must imagine that an entire nation will ignore the Second Amendment.
America’s great social experiment of prohibition should tell us something about the black market world created by this type of government intervention. It gave rise to big-time organized crime built of bootlegging.
Besides, if gun control could make us all safe, then why haven’t laws against methamphetamine and heroin stiffled the illegal drug trade? Because criminals and crazies don’t obey laws. They often live in a world of their own imaginations.
Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or firstname.lastname@example.org.