Do We Really Want Change?

By Sarah Viets
7-21-2008

Have you ever broken up with someone because they rarely stood on their own? Or because they stimulated you, but the tone of their words muted the sound of your voice - their words and thoughts towered over your every word.

I have. Then I promised myself I’d never date a replica of my past. I made a vow to meet someone who would challenge me and get me to see the world and myself through a different prism. I was so tired of making all the decisions, no matter how serious or trivial they were. Tired, tired tired…

But then life goes on and my previous experiences are remembered as a small and insignificant part of my past. I meet someone new and his/her personality appears to contrast a familiar face. But then I notice something. I’ve ended up exactly where I once was. Ugg! Who put a magic mirror above my bathroom sink?! Why do I continue to not see situations as they are; is my mirror permanently distorted?

Worse yet, I desire that familiar voice of the one who is responsible for my solace and despair.

I say I want change and want to try something new. I want to break away from the only experiences I’m most comfortable in. But when it comes down to it, my actions contrast my ideals. Instead, of choosing what I desire, I merely choose a different shade of a previous color.

I live in an age of change - an era that thrives to see and experience unfamiliar paths. The internet connects us to new ideas and people across the globe, allowing me to sit in my living room and download new movies and foreign rhythms and beats.

While the present moment rings of opportunity, the opportunities we choose are not optimistic.

People may claim they’re adaptable and “open-minded,” but the only people and ideas we believe are merely echoes our own. People really don’t seek anything different, just a larger exposition of what they already proclaim to know. And if somebody challenges a point of view, people don’t question the roots of a personal position. We respond in defense by clinging to our ideals while not knowing what the opposing side actually represents. We become loyal and rigid, keeping our feet locked in place. We don’t second-guess our original stance. Re-thinking previously stated opinions are defined as wavering weak assessments and not evolving conclusions.

At the same time, we present ingrained opinions; we don’t hesitate to say why someone is wrong. Individual interpretations based on personal experiences possibly explain unfamiliar patterns.

While I obsessively shuffle through a friend’s friend-list on facebook, search on-line for that Icelandic band I heard at a friend’s house, or play chess with cyber friends from who knows where, am I really taste-testing unaccustomed flavors?

With that said, do people prefer subconsciously pre-determined opinions? And if so, is the inability to feel grounded in undetermined conclusions an individual problem or a social phenomenon?

Looking at current events, debates about immigration reform usually present solutions that aren’t any different from the past. Proposed state-wind ballot initiatives and city council ordinances that try to address problems with immigration are masked as new and innovative approaches, but they’re not.

Kind of like old policies that either banned slavery, implemented “gradual” emancipation, or held tight to their slave auctions and enacted the Fugitive Slave Act. In fact, for more than 100 years, colonies and states couldn’t decide what to do. So they began to use their borders (like states and city ordinances) as a way to advance pro-slavery positions. Even more, there were over 20 different local and state wide policies that limited where black people could work, live, and who black folks could marry.

But states could never really decide what to do to. One minute they might pass some law to protect husbands, wives, daughters and sons running away from the south, and then the next minute they might protect segregation.

It was a HUGE mess. So much that the south declared itself independent from the north (the Southern Confederacy) so they could assert their strong support for buying and selling moms and dads like a piece of cattle.

Now, I know bringing up history is like bringing up a bad relationship that you’re trying to forget. But how can anyone learn from his or her mistakes unless they draw lessons from old mistakes?

I know it’s easy to say slavery was bad, that our old relatives were off their rockers, but at one moment and time, they weren’t. It was socially acceptable to protect slavery and hunt for runaway slaves, kind of how the Minutemen (a modern anti-immigrant group on the border) hunts for immigrants on the border.
(and here's a picture)

We desperately need new ideas - we need change. But new non-traditional ideas should be examined with caution, unfamiliar views should at least be considered before firmly rejected. That’s what makes our country beautiful: the ability to challenge and adapt our American constitution.

Maybe its time to re-define what it means to be a Citizen. Maybe its time to re-think what it means to be American.

(picture gratefully used from www.dneiwert.blogspot.com)

2 comments:

Chris said...

Sarah -
Nice musings. I'd respectfully suggest, like in relationships, it is hard for us to change. We end up in similar relationships. Our countries struggle with immigration is similar...

Consider:
A noted political figure unleashes a blistering attack against new immigrants who “swarm” into our neighborhoods without regard for our laws, customs and shared values. Why, he asks, should we suffer outsiders who prefer ethnic enclaves where they “establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours?”

The painful truth, he adds, is that these newcomers are so culturally different from the rest of us that they will never assimilate like past immigrants, posing a grave threat to the society we cherish.

It could be those minutemen in your photo, or Tom Tancredo, or Lou Dobbs, but it was Ben Franklin, concerned the Germans would take over Pennsylvania.

My how times change... (or not).

Sarah said...

Thanks, Chris. And I wonder what folks actually mean when they say newcomers are too "culturally different" to be a part of our American life. I wonder what cultural traits they're referring to.
hmm...