Wednesday, November 12, 2008

About change

Absence of change may bore us, or comfort us; slight change may amuse us, or annoy us; great change, of any kind -- it frightens us, even if we have longed for the change.

In the United States, when leadership changes hands, there's change. Nearly always, the change that's coming has been talked about, anticipated, stump speeched, beaten with a stick, villified and/or demanded.

But because we hand over power so peaceably here, sometimes the change seems a long time comin'. We are a democratic, bicameral, bipartisian nation, after all--we change by consensus.

Although "consensus" can mean, "by an electoral landslide but just 6.5% of the popular vote."

Which leaves a lot of people feeling, well, to use a politcally correct phrase, disenfranchised.

I don't think that change will be so slow, this time, and if that makes some people almost wildly optimistic, it makes some disenfranchised others so upset they fly their American flags upsidedown and half-staff in the breeze.

Now: If I asked you to name a time in our history that seems to stand for change, you might say the '60s. Rock and roll, Vietnam, woman's liberation, the civil rights movement, the Cold War--all signs of change, right? We've never been the same.

Except I think those symptoms were of a change that had taken place almost two decades earlier, and were the last gasps of a society long gone. I think the '40s were the decade when the country changed--I think WWII forced us to change for good; if we went into denial a bit (quite a bit, actually) in the '50s, the '60s were the result of what happens when an entire society tries to pretend that women hadn't contributed as equal partners in the war effort, that black and white could stand as equals on the battlefield or elsewhere, that the U.S. was the leader of the free world, and that for God's sake, can't we find some way to solve the world's problems besides bombing and shooting the hell out of each other's best and brightest young people?

The change we're seeing now? Just a few HUNDRED years in the making. No wonder some of us are so upset.

My 53rd birthday was election day. Middle age has brought me two things, one I thought I'd never learn, and the other I tended to anyway: Patience, and pragmatism.

The patience I've learned will help me wait on this new administration; I don't expect these newbies to solve all our problems in the first year--maybe even the first term. There's a lot that needs changed, and I don't forget about that bicameral, bipartisian, flag-upside-down part of our government.

Pragmatism--common sense--tells me that not everything advertised can be delivered; that great promise can lead to great disappointment; that sometimes leaps of faith can trip us up.

But hope, my native optimism,  tells me that miracles can happen, change can work for the good, that those who have learned from the past are not doomed to repeat it.

Patience, pragmatism, hope, change--

Yes we can.

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