July 2009

Change. It was a word we heard a lot in 2008.

And why wouldn’t we have? With rising unemployment, increasing foreclosures, escalating health care costs, failing companies, growing debt and swelling tensions in the world, who couldn’t want things to be different? So change was born as like a savior, bringing with it hope and optimism, that all bad things bad may cease.

Trouble is, though, that change is not an intellectual action in most instances; rather, it’s rooted in the emotional will to aspire to something better and what we do to get there is scarcely enjoyable. That’s why most New Year’s resolutions fail. Quitting smoking or losing weight or even just being a nicer person requires hard work and constant attention to often uncomfortable steps, which by repetition can cause most people, myself included, to lose faith in the process and give up before we achieve the goal.

We’re experiencing this now. Six months into President Obama’s term his once stratospheric approval ratings are now falling back to earth. It was inevitable because his campaign, his journey into the White House, rode on the back of change — and now many people remember how scary it can be. The steps to change anything are as diverse as they are painful. And in a way, we wish that things could have changed on their own without actually having to do anything. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don’t. There are infinite ways to resolve a problem and a growing number of people have begun to disagree with the way the president is doing it.

I imagine that the president saw this coming, which is why he’s chased after as many problems as he could. Whether he fixes or worsens these problems or whether or not we agree on how the president is doing this is not what this column is about. Rather, it is a caveat, mostly for myself I suppose, that emotions don’t solve problems; deliberation does. And that change, for better or for worse, should always be paid for upfront — with awareness of the pain and fear to come. A founding father knew this when he said, “Passion governs, and she never governs wisely.” P


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