Monday, October 10, 2011

Flip Flops

As the campaign season gets closer and closer and...wait, did it ever stop?   I'm not sure it did.

Anyway, I've started to see a recurrence of one of the things I find most profoundly irritating in current political discourse.

That thing is the term "flip-flopper," which surfaced first in the 2004 election, and just kept on trucking through the 2008 season.

The concept behind this attack is simple, as simple as the binary operation of a microprocessor.  Either yer fer sumthin', or yer agin it.  And if you were fer sumthin', then changed yer mind?  That makes you a flip-flopper.

A flip-flopper must be someone who lacks integrity.  A flip-flopper must be governed by political expediency.  A flip-flopper can't be trusted.  They are not a true believer.

Let's take a look out there.  There's a site devoted to Mitt Romney's flip flops.  Rick Perry is a flip flopper.  Herman Cain is a flip flopper.  Michele Bachmann?  A flip flopper.   Ron Paul?  Amazingly enough, even the eternally consistent, never-varies or wavers, teeth sunk into libertarianism like a bulldog with a grudge Ron Paul, even he is accused of flip flopping.

And I'm not even going to get started googling Obama.

But here's the rub.  Flip flopping means two things.  First, it can mean the willingness to compromise, to move towards consensus and a middle path with someone who disagrees with you about how to attain a goal.  In that sense, what the blogosphere and talk-radio shoutocracy proclaims as flippity-flopping is absolutely necessary to the functioning of a democratic republic.

Second, and more significantly, it's the willingness to change your mind based on new evidence, or the persuasiveness of another's position.  If you can't ever change your mind, and cannot be persuaded to modify or evolve or adjust your thinking, then you aren't being consistent.   You're being inert, unaware, and intellectually lazy.   You barely qualify as a sentient being, let alone the enlightened, thoughtful citizen you need to be to participate in a pluralist democracy.

That bothers me as a citizen who cares about the future of our republic.

But it bothers me more as a Christian.

One of the central concepts underlying the Christian faith is the idea of repentance.  You do something.  You realize that something is not the thing you should be doing.  You change your mind, and you change your life.   Repentance is, for many Jesus people, a way of life.  You don't just fix yourself once and be done with it.  You are continually correcting, as you miss the mark and turn your being back on the course towards grace.

You can't once be lost, and now be found, be blind and now you see, without flip-flopping.

Sigh.  I'll just have to grit my teeth and bear it, I suppose.