Thursday, November 29, 2007

No One Really Wants Change

I have unfortunately come to the frightening conclusion that no one in America really wants change. Oh yeah, we want change so long as it effects other people and not us. We want the Iraqis to change and adopt our policies, we want the Pakistanis to change, we want the Sudanese to change, we want the Right to change, we want the politicians to change, we want our spouses to change, we want our bosses to change, we want the media to change. We want everyone to change, but ourselves.

We pretend we want change, we talk about it and we write about it. But when it comes right down to it, we don’t want change. Let’s face it change is difficult, scary, and confusing. Let the other folks change; I am fine like I am. I don’t kill people, I don’t molest children, and I haven’t said the N-word in awhile. Sure I eat too much crap, I don’t exercise enough, and I watch too much television, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. I mean every now and then I give the homeless folks a dollar, I give at work, and I give my old crap to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

As I am writing this President Bush has just vetoed a spending bill to fund domestic programs, while at the same time he signed a 471 billion defense spending bill, this is not for the wars. This is in addition to the 196 billion he has already asked for and received for the war this year. So, we are spending more money to fight wars that no one can define than we are to provide for the needs of our people here at home and we are not in the streets over this? There are no riots, no storming the White House. No, we just go quietly home and ignore it all. It is our fear of change that allows these things to happen unchallenged.

I read an Op-Ed piece by Bob Herbert in the New York Times and he was talking about one of the young civil rights workers who were killed in 1968. The young man was white and from New York and he was willing to go all the way to Mississippi to fight for the rights of people he didn’t even know. When asked why he didn’t forbid him from going his father said, “I didn’t have the right, to tell him not to go.” This young man did not fear change, he showed what true courage was, and that in spite of his fears he was going to do the right thing, because it was the right thing.

So why do we have such a hard time changing and as a result affecting change around us. For many of us change is uncomfortable because we have all been programmed to a certain degree. We receive programming from our parents, friends, television, and our experiences. Most of us have had to overcome what we consider traumatic experiences, notice I said what “we” consider, no one can determine for another the emotional damage of any experience. We develop coping mechanisms that insulate us from further damage and we become comfortable with the results. The more comfortable we become the more resistant to change we become. For some the idea of change becomes so frightening or undesirable that they would choose death over change.

If we know that change is constant and the only thing that you can count on is change, then why do we resist it so much? Why don’t we embrace it and look forward to its arrival in the hope of lessening its impact. I have never understood why stubbornness and blind loyalty are considered traits to be emulated. Before his reelection Mr. Bush was given positive ratings for being stubborn and not willing to change course in the midst of mounting evidence against him. So there is something in many Americans that believes that change is bad, hence the mantra, “stay the course”. Even when change is discussed or contemplated, it is only presented as piecemeal or change-lite.

We know that the wealthy are siphoning off billions of private and taxpayer dollars, we know that the war in Iraq was unnecessary and based on false premises, we know that our government and its officials are awash in special interest money and influence, we know that the war on drugs is not working, we know that our government is torturing people in our name, we know that people who were sworn to protect it are ignoring or demolishing the Constitution, we know that our country is slowing becoming a police state and we are losing our democracy, yet despite all of these things we continue to spurn change. Anyone who advocates real change is immediately marginalized, depicted as insane, or killed and another brick is added to the wall.

It is hard to believe that we were the generation of change and revolution, we had such high hopes for ourselves and the world. Now many of us hide in our gated communities or suburban enclaves content with the treadmill existence we decried our parents for. Many of us have become stuck in our ruts, living lives of quiet desperation. So we complain and we moan and groan, but we are too afraid or too cynical to change. And as we amuse ourselves with the latest gadgets, reality show, or other distraction our country continues to spiral further away from us.

If we knew back then what we know now, I wonder if we would have done things differently. I don’t know, but this is definitely not what I envisioned.

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