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Lange: Resisting Change

01/17/13 7:55AM By Willem Lange
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(Host) As Congressman Peter Welch tries to change the political atmosphere in Washington, storyteller and commentator Willem Lange wishes him luck - and observes that in the long run, resistance to change is said to be futile.

(Lange) I wonder if Isaac Newton ever considered applying his laws of motion to human society as well as inanimate objects. The first and third in particular. The first declares that objects (whether in motion or not) tend to keep on doing what they're doing (or not doing); and the third observes that for every action there's an opposite and equal reaction. I'd say both apply to our response to change, which is often called the only constant.

"Change" means departing from the status quo. It happens when the status quo becomes unbearable. English nobles forced change upon King John, and got the Magna Carta. Martin Luther challenged the Roman Catholic Church, which didn't change much; but much of the rest of the world did. The French Revolution and the American Civil War exploded because of the gross unfairness of the status quo. Fifty years ago the United States changed radically, thanks to the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this month. Change was necessary in each case; it was resisted; and an equal and opposite force was required to effect it.

Now, consider the current gridlock in Congress. Many Americans fear nothing can break the stalemate. Like two bull moose, the parties are locked in a shoving contest. But something will give; you can count on that.

Resistance to change is widespread. The State of Mississippi , in a spasm of fading patriarchy, is considering a "personhood" initiative outlawing abortion without exceptions, and possibly even the use of female (note "female") contraceptives.

There's also a rising sentiment among conservative lawmakers favoring "traditional" methods of execution - electric chair and firing squad - at the same time Gallup polls show declining public support for the death penalty.

Finally, for hundreds of years we've often despised immigrants who've taken seriously the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. They came, took miserable jobs, and wove themselves into society. They were called the rudest of names, and suspected of horrible crimes. Alabama 's recent tough immigration law caused an exodus of Hispanic workers. The law betrayed a fear among white Alabamans of losing their majority status. They were pushing back; Newton 's Law again. But in an ironic development, Alabama 's tomato crop rotted in the fields for lack of help.

As Newton might say: Action... reaction.

Eventually inertia gives way, as it did a while back in New Hampshire when the Executive Council voted to stop funding for Planned Parenthood in their state. Imagine their surprise when the federal government stepped in and refunded it - causing one councilor to grumble about "government arrogance."

Action... reaction.

An old Isaac Watts hymn puts it this way : "Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away." Change; it's happening. Consider it critically, even skeptically. But work with it. Resistance is futile.

This is Willem Lange in Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.


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