Admit it or not, people change in their outlooks and opinions, sometimes slowly, sometimes not. But somehow, when it comes to being a politician, or perhaps some other sort of leader, change is deemed detrimental, even duplicitous.
During a political campaign, some opponent will inevitably claim, “I have a paper here that you wrote in 1978 where you advocated the opposite of what you now advocate on the campaign trail.”
Really? News flash: People change. I changed. Why should we think otherwise? I have concern for anyone who says, “I have never changed any of my views over the past 30 years.”
Which begs the question of whether such a monolith can think, let alone speak.
By claiming not to change, one acknowledges that the world, new facts, new developments have no relevance. But the truth is most of us change. We change political views, religious views, historical views, parenting views, civil rights views, economic views, educational views, food views, color views, clothing-style views.
Yet if a politician changes a position, he or she is accused of “flip-flopping.” Is it “flip-flopping” that so many fellow Texans’ views on civil rights have evolved over the years? Or have some of us undergone personal growth?
Consider Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who as an attorney in the 1920s joined the Ku Klux Klan, yet three decades later led the high court in its trailblazing Brown v. Board of Education ruling, marking the beginning of the end of racial segregation in schools.
If change wasn’t natural in the course of life and new developments, an atheist might not become a believer in the faith — or, for that matter, the other way around. If change wasn’t acceptable, that friend of yours next door who is a Democrat might not see the light and vote for a Republican based on your arguments.
Life is complex. We live in a world of conflicting views and complicated happenings. Most issues are not simply a matter of yes or not. Which may explain why some people quit processing facts and quit caring at all about a particular issue.
Years ago I learned that a key attribute of maturity is the ability to tolerate ambiguity. Life is not binary, it’s not everything neatly divided as For or Against. For some people, nuances in an issue count for everything. And that’s OK, even welcome, in an increasingly complex world.
A lack of maturity — showing up as intolerance — can result in a single-issue perspective. Such a person tends to focus all attention and energy on one issue: “I do not really care what his or her views are on other issues, so long as she/he holds to my position on this point.” That issue can be abortion, white supremacy, gun control, gender identity, immigration, tobacco use or international relations.
And some people cannot understand another person who holds views different from oneself: “It’s just unfathomable to me that someone can believe that” — whatever “that” is.
Yet as a nation, we must agree to a social contract where we live together in communities made up of many views. And as we continue on life’s journey together, we learn to live and interact with many different people and ideas. That is what it means when we say as a nation we are a “free people.” We are free to think, free to believe and free to choose to live together in communities, unified in all of our diversity of ideas and, yes, ambiguities. As we say, E Pluribus Unum.