Sunday, November 22, 2009

Change Versus Conformity

A friend of mine recently posed the question,

"What takes more courage, embracing conformity or the willingness to be seen as different?"

This was followed up later by his comment,

"It seems many are absolutely terrified of things changing and not being their expectation of conformity."

At first I thought I had an automatic answer to the question, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it is actually a question which can't easily be answered. To choose between conformity or change utilizes words which have such varied meanings for so many. As Thomas Sorrel states,

"Undefined words have a special power in politics, particularly when they involve some principle that engages people's emotions."

Is change good simply for the sake of change? Is conformity bad simply because it is conformity? How do we apply the thought of having the "willingness to be seen as different" in a practical setting? How do we implement "things changing" in practical situations? How far into each personal life must change reach to actually be change?

Are we speaking merely of ideals and theories in which change and conformity are words that have no impact on our daily decisions? Or do we implement change as opposed to conformity in every aspect of our lives because change is good and conformity is bad?

Do I have to use a different brand of toothpaste today than yesterday, because the change is good? (I hope not, I like my toothpaste.)

To ensure change, why couldn't we avoid the headache and expense of political campaigns (nothing would make me happier, I hate that time in our political cycle) and just change parties in power every two, four and six years, for Representatives, Presidents and Senators. We would ensure change and save money at the same time (and never have to listen to a single campaign speech!)

If we are to avoid conformity, does that mean that if everyone else is flying to the next conference, that I must drive to avoid conforming? If everyone is wearing rectangular style glasses, must mine be round, so as not to conform…I must show the courage to be different, mustn't I?

People who know me, know I do not like change unless I am the one who institutes it. I am, after all, the woman who used the same brand of hair color for seventeen years. Finally, the claims of another brand tempted me away from the one that said I was worth the extra money and in doing so, I found a better product.

Yet, I am also known by family and friends as a non-conformist.I don't believe in rules just for rule's sake and I have been known to challenge the ones that aren't well justified.I don't believe that things should stay the same just because "they have always been this way."I have often preferred to take the "less traveled" road and do things my own way, striking out in stubborn independence that I claim comes from my Greek grandfather and Irish great-grandfather, who were both immigrants to this country.

I do believe, however, that there are things that are worth saving, worth conserving,

worth leaving unchanged. The truths upon which our nation was founded, the strengths of our democracy, the belief that America is a great nation with incredibly wonderful people. . .these truths are worth preserving unchanged.

The tenants of our Constitution. . .these are not only worth preserving unchanged, but they are worth the sworn oaths of our service men and women, and our elected officials.

The foundations of our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.. . These are worth leaving untouched as a pattern for all oppressed who yearn to breathe the free air of liberty.

Today, as I took Sparrow outside, I stood beside the tall oak tree in our front yard.

I stood on the raised area where the roots of the tree meet the trunk. As I looked across our neighborhood at all the beautiful oaks and their canopy of limbs over the street, I thought of the thick roots under my feet.It was the unseen roots that allowed the oaks to stand so tall, to support those massive limbs that stretch out over the street and shade the sidewalks and cool the houses. If the roots were not perfectly stable --unchanging-- we would have no oak trees.They are a source of strength and beauty to all who live in our neighborhood.

There are things in our nation that we need to be unchanging. We need the roots to be immovable, sure, steady and strong so that the rest of the laws, bills and amendments built upon them can have a sure foundation.We need to know that the basic beliefs of our nation are unchanging, so we can have pride in who and what we are as Americans. We have nothing to apologize for. We provide food and medicine to so many in the world. We provide jobs for so many in other countries. We are the example they have looked to for freedom and democracy for over two-hundred years.

These are the things we mustn't change simply the sake of change. We must guard that which is worth preserving with every fiber of our being and every ounce of our courage, and we must change that which needs to be changed with caution and wisdom.

As the old saying goes, we must not "throw out the baby with the bathwater." Our country is great. Let us celebrate and give thanks for all the myriad of things that are wonderful about our country and the citizens who make America what it has been and is today. Then let us with caution, with wisdom and yes, with courage, change the things that truly need change -- "of the people, by the people and for the people."

"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set."

(Proverbs 22:28)

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