Friday, November 19, 2010

Change

Change! It’s everywhere. It’s rapid. It’s huge. It can be overwhelming. Some say the only constant in life is change. Resistance is futile. Build a bridge and get over it.

But, is all change good? A friend of mine, who also was my computer tech, often said, “Progress is not always progress.” It is legitimate to ask if computers have really saved us any time? Or, has the paperless society really resulted in less paper being consumed? In fact, it is appropriate for us to weigh the pros and cons of any change—to ask the tough questions.

And how do we cope with all this change and when does change become too much for people to handle? Everyone has their own capacity for change. When they reach that threshold, stress increases and we can see that manifest in anger or even violence. Certainly, stress resulting from too much change is the one reason many people have heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure, ulcers, and headaches—even cold sores can be attributed to stress. Those are the physiological manifestations of stress caused by too much change, but what about the psychological impacts—psychotic breakdowns, frayed nerves, and people who take it out on their fellow workers or their family?

I took a course on Change Management when I attended the Institute for Organizational Management back in the early 90’s. Everyone in that class was under the same misconception that we would learn how to control all the change around us and thus reduce the stress. Wrong! What we learned is that change is all around us and most of it is virtually out of our control. But, what we can do is develop coping mechanisms to help us deal with change—to build that bridge and get over it. Most of our coping mechanisms take the form of habits; those things we do routinely that take our mind off of everything else and restore that sense of control we have lost. Obsessive compulsive behavior fills this need for many of us. The instructor told a story about a guy who was experiencing extraordinary change in his workplace. His coping mechanism was his sock drawer! He would go home every night and admire the way each pair of socks were matched, folded, and in their place—just the way he wanted them; the way they should be.

For me, this guy’s sock drawer was somewhat of an epiphany. You have to know my wife. She is an artist and a writer, a left-brain person. I am more anal compulsive and right brained. We are a match made in heaven because together we have the full compliment of left and right-brain thinking, but I digress. At our house, one can find the scissors have been put away in any one of five drawers. Historically, it drove me nuts because I always wondered why the scissors could not be put in one drawer where they belonged. The sock drawer story made me realize that the reason I was so obsessive about the scissors was that I was looking for stability at home to help me cope with all the change at work. What a brilliant flash of genius! When I got home I was eager to explain my new revelation about my behavior and foolishly thought my wife would fully understand. But, no, she blithely told me, “That’s nice, Honey, but don’t expect me to change.” Argh!

So what are we to do about all this change in our lives and in society. I recently read an essay by Philip Kennicott, staff writer for the Washington Post: The Civil War taught us to fight for the right to be wrong. Yes, the Civil War Sesquicentennial is in 2011 and Americans will once again go through the exercise of second guessing our history and the motives of those long gone. The essence of the essay is that the South seceded from the Union because they were resisting the inevitable change of the abolition of slavery. In hindsight, which of course is always 20/20 vision, I believe we all agree that slavery was wrong and abolishing it was the right thing to do. But, there were significant cultural and economic barriers to change in 1861. In some ways, the die of secession had already been cast and the Civil War occurred because people fixated on their differences and not on their common ground. It often happens that way.

Today in our nation, we have seen a lot of change in our governance. Many people believe that over the last seventy or so years, this country has enacted programs that have gradually moved our economy away from a free enterprise system and to a more socialist system. The enactment of health care reform this year has been for many a straw that is breaking the camel’s back. People have reacted by organizing and mobilizing. I have never heard more “revolutionary” rhetoric since the anti-Viet Nam War protests of the 60’s. But, it is for all of us to consider whether people are “fighting for the right to be wrong” or whether this particular kind of change is bad.

I would argue that the change we are experiencing in our government and economy is not good. Communism and its diminutive form, socialism, have failed elsewhere in the world and these systems do not work largely because they ignore the basic needs and motivations of humans. I believe, therefore, it is important to resist this kind of change through every peaceable means available to us. The free enterprise system works and is worthy of our defense. It generates the most wealth for the greatest number of people. As for me, I will not be bullied into accepting change just because some progressive tells me it is the natural course of things or that it is for the greater good.

And one of those forms of resistance, fortunately for us, was built into our Constitutional form of government. Our Founding Fathers built a system of check and balances, and intentionally or not, the end result has been bureaucracy. While normally considered to be a bad thing, I believe bureaucracy is the keel of the ship of state. Were it not for bureaucracy, each political change in administrations could conceivably change the course of the ship of state 180 degrees. As it is, each new administration can only get what can be characterized as a course correction of 5 or 10 degrees, to the left or to the right, and then they spend the rest of their time tying down the wheel and welding the rudder.

Change—it is inevitable, or is it? Change is always about progress, or is it? Should we all just find a way to cope with change and consider it to be just a fact of life—build a bridge and get over it. Or, should we consider the merits of change—the pros and cons of any particular change—and then work for it or against it based on what we believe to be best for our families, communities, and the country?

Friday, November 5, 2010

You Picked a Fine Time to Lead Us, Barack

"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

Those are the words Admiral Yamamoto supposedly uttered shortly after receiving the first reports about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in the early hours of December 7, 1941. More prophetic words could not have been spoken because, as a result of the sneak attack by Japan, the United States of America was jarred out of its complacent, isolationist position that the war in Europe and the Pacific were somebody else’s war. By the end of World War II, victory of the good and righteous was secured in both theatres of that conflict by an American military machine and soldiers that mobilized and fought with conviction and courage from the islands of the South Pacific to the shores of Normandy.

As Abraham Lincoln said in his 2nd Inaugural Address, “With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work…” That is what Americans do when stirred into action for a just and noble cause.

If you have been reading my column for the past few years, you will know that I am no fan of Barack Obama’s policies. From economics to tax policy, from climate change to cap and trade, from real health care reform to Obamacare, from uniter to divider, I am convinced that Barack Obama may go down in recent history as one of the worst Presdients of modern times. Now, of course, history will be the final judge of that, but as far as my humble opinion goes, well, I probably need say no more.

At the time of this writing, the 2010 Mid-Term Elections are barely over. Although perhaps overly projected by some pundants to be Republican sweep of seismic proportions—even exceeding the Republican Revolution of 1994—the final outcome is nonetheless a popular rejection of many of Barack Obama’s major policy initiatives.

Barack Obama has awaken the sleeping giant of the conservative movement in this country. He has unleashed an ultra liberal agenda that exposed many Members of Congress who had been hiding behind a more conservative fa├žade The ensuing uproar has become the newest “…shot heard around the world.”

The Tea Party Patriots owe their very existence and huge popularity to Barack Obama. But for the $867 billion failed stimulus bill, the job killing cap and trade bill, and the final death knell of Obamacare, the Tea Party Patriots would have gained little traction. Now, they will hold the new Republican leaders accountable.

America has been dismayed by the shock and awe of some of the extreme anti-buisness rhetoric and the government control of key sectors of the private sector by Congress and this Administration. Many citizens even dare to say our nation is dangerously close to becoming a socialist state.

The arrogance of Barack Obama’s words, “I won!” at his first meeting with the Republican Minority in Congress. The audacity of Congress passing legislation that few had read and no one fully understood just so, “We can find out what is says,” according to Nancy Pelosi. The idea that Americans should be happy with the notion that “…electric rates would necessarily skyrocket…,” according to Obama, so that we can address what may, or may not, happen to the climate in 100 years whether we do anything or not. The creation of dozens of Czars in the United States Government who are given unpresedented authority to carry out their missions, arguably without the benefit of our Constiututional checks and balances. Yes, the past 20 months have been a never ending series of arrogant elected officials talking down to a population who is not buying one bit of it. It is a sham.

Here in Prince Edward County, Virginia, I have witnessed first hand a resurgence of conservative activism. One night last winter in Farmville, 10 volunteers signed up to be members of the local Republican Committee. Since then, we have seen an unprecedented surge in party activism. These people are fired up for the election like never before. Thank you, Barack Obama.

Across the 5th District here in Central and Southside Virginia, I have heard about World War II Veterans saying, “This is the most important election of my lifetime.” They are truly scared for the future of this country and for their grand children who will be saddled with unprecendented and record-setting deficit spending. Terms like “income redistribution” and higher taxes for the “rich”—whatever rich is in today’s world—scare the heck out of the Greatest Generation.

Pre-election accounts of voter fraud were running rampant and stories about the Service Employees International Union running the ballot machines in key states smacks of conflict of interest. And now we have the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals talking about giving illegal aliens the right to vote in 2012! I am reminded of the movie, Bridge of River Kwai, when, after the British Colonel falls dead on the detonator blowing up the bridge the British prisoners had ill-advisedly built so well, Major Clipton stands on the hill exclaiming, “Madness! Madness!”

Yes, I have certainly had my share of exascerbating moments with Barack Obama’s policies. He certainly picked a fine time to lead us, perhaps even down the path of socialism, but as I savor the 2010 Mid-Term Election results, I must admit I owe Barack Obama a debt of gratitude. For indeed, it must be said that President Obama has awakened “…a sleeping giant.”