Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Change I can believe in

I've never met an extremist that
I didn't distrust
Remember the last line of The Who song, "Won't get fooled again"? It's one of the biggest political statements ever made in a song, as far as I'm concerned. And a great reminder that pride does goeth before the fall.

"Meet the new boss; same as the old boss."

I might be a bit of a Pollyanna and I admit that. I have this crazy idea that political and social change can happen without violence and rage. Would it have happened in Egypt without the loss of life and military intervention? In a history wrought with war and political oppression, probably not.

However, I would like to think that the US is different. It took a war for the US to become its own country. It was a war for independence from a country whose interest was purely financial.

And it took another war to keep the country together. Though the Civil War was also fueled by financial interests, the government fought to keep the country whole.

When I listen to the Tea Partiers say that they are like the founding fathers, I shake my head. If the founding fathers were here today, they would disagree with groups who use their words to dismantle the very infrastructure they fought so hard to create. Jefferson's slave-owning notwithstanding, the founding fathers were much more liberal for their times than the Tea Partiers are in today's times.

During angry town hall meetings that allow citizens to listen to and talk with US representatives, I am always amused by the way the radical right uses these opportunities to talk (or rather, yell) more than listen. A professor of mine said once, "No one ever learned anything by talking." And that is so true.

What is so scary about listening when you disagree with someone? Is it fear that your opinion might be changed? Is changing your opinion based on fact or thoughtful discourse a bad thing?

The most volatile people on the planet are those whose opinions are cast in stone. Do they view consistency of opinion as a strength? Emerson said: "The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them."

Personally, I reserve the right to change my opinion on a strongly-held belief every day. I have been reasoned out of a stance but only through thoughtful discussion. Never with rage. Once the volume rises, I stop listening.

That volume works sometimes as we witnessed recently in Egypt. Their government was (and will likely be) based upon controlling the masses more than instituting civil and human rights. For me, the jury is still out on the type of change the protesters will end up with. I would like to think of my own country as an environment that welcomes change provided it is achieved with civility and democracy.

If the Tea Partiers have their way, I worry about the loss of civility and reason. I don't want to live in a country that makes its decisions and drives change through rage, closed minds, closed ears, and revisionist history.

I guess I always look at change with an eye on the slippery slope of political movements and how power changes what might have started as a noble vision.

Are we about to meet that "new boss" with the Tea Party movement? And, more importantly, is anyone in that movement paying attention to history?

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. Thank you for posting a link to your blog. I've said before that I honestly believe the tea party is the single worst thing that has happened to the Republican party in my lifetime.

    Also repeating - the John Birch Society was headquartered in the very conservative town where I grew up and where I was involved in the republican party. No one wanted any connection to the JBS because of its extreme political views. IMHO the tea party and JBS have a lot in common.