Service of Flip Flopping

March 29th, 2010

Categories: Changing Your Mind, Flip Flopping


Parents laugh when their young children make pronouncements such as “I will never marry,” or “I wouldn’t be caught going there if it were the last place on earth.” They don’t hold their children to such pronouncements. Executives are praised for changing a company’s direction thereby saving it.

Yet politicians are criticized for changing their minds. How many times do opponents bring up videos or quotes sometimes from years ago–when a 50+ year old opponent was in college–to show that they don’t have vision or have lost their way or at one time voted/endorsed the opposite point of view.

Saturday morning, [March 27th] a newsman I respect, Joe Bartlett on WOR radio, launched an interview with Pedro Espada, Jr. the New York Senate leader, with the fact that Espada had changed his mind about adding tolls to New York City’s East River bridges. Espada now thinks they are a good idea.

sticktogunIn economic times such as these, sticking to one’s guns no matter what seems foolhardy. Few shop and entertain where and as often as they used to. Millions are getting pretty good at making choices and accepting options that under other circumstances they wouldn’t consider. When faced with no job, a pay cut doesn’t seem so bad. Rearranging the living room furniture may be the solution to a space you couldn’t live with another second when the redecorating budget is used to pay unexpected medical bills.

subwaymapThe city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is threatening to charge children for their MetroCards which they currently get free [and many note it’s hard enough to get some of the kids to go to school without cutting off their transportation]. It’s also anticipating severe bus and subway service cutbacks. In this context, charging drivers a small amount of money to enter the city with a car seems to make sense.

Empathizing with an opponent, enemy or someone who gets under your skin doesn’t make you weak. In fact, it might give you insight as to a creative solution to an impasse. You might find an alternate road or approach that lubricates rather than enrages the situation.

The country is so divided now as we face enormous hurdles. Elected officials seem to be digging in their heels so deep that to take a step would make them trip. While we’re spending all this money anyway, perhaps the Senate and House could afford to buy a few cartons of flip flops, take off their office shoes and don the rubber kind for a while.

Do you change your mind about critical matters more than before? What do you think of people who change theirs?


6 Responses to “Service of Flip Flopping”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    I hope that many of us Americans have learned the need to be flexible or adaptable in an era in which so much that we had never anticipated has come to pass. It would seem necessary to revise or even change our opinions about myriad things that we have taken for granted on all levels and in particular in the public arena.

    Recently I saw part of a documentary following Senator Kennedy as he attempted to put through an immigration bill. What I found most interesting was his ability to give and take in a ritual that depended on coming to terms with opposing ideas for the greater good. I hope his modus operandi can permeate more of our public and private lives.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    An excellent example of give and take between two people with clear vision and definite views who see life in a different way. Both had in mind getting something done, as you put it, for the greater good, not as an emblem to wear in the next campaign.

    When negotiating, all parties must come out feeling that they have won something. I envision politicians these days in so many arm wrestling bouts where slamming the opponent’s arm to the table is all that matters–but we aren’t playing games.

  3. Simon Carr Said:

    The first men that came to my mind, Jeanne, after reading your post, were those two highly competent, honest, intelligent, and thoughtful experienced politicians, both of whom had exceptional and consistently successful careers in the political systems of their countries, President James Buchanan of the United States and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain. Both compromised, when some think they should not have, and for essentially the same reason: They both had a horror of war.

    President Buchanan understood full well that the North of the United States, if it refused to compromise with the South, would spark a Civil War in which more than 500,000 Americans would die. He compromised, but the North, under his successor, Abraham Lincoln, did not, although in fairness to Lincoln, he tried his best to do so. Over a half a million Americans died as a consequence. Sadly, Buchanan is now vilified.

    Prime Minister Chamberlain, who had witnessed the horror of the First World War, understood full well that if Britain and France did not compromise, Germany would seek to revenge herself for the wrongs she felt were done her after the First World War. His effort to flip flop accomplished little. The Second World War with all its attendant horrors was fought anyway. Perhaps not unfairly, Chamberlain is now vilified. But it is interesting to note, though, that Winston Churchill, his successor as Prime Minister, was always gracious to and deeply respectful of his predecessor in office. Churchill understood what a terrible decision Chamberlain had had to make.

    Ever since President Lyndon Johnson, we have had change thrust upon us in this country of such a frightening dimension, that, at least for some of us, these are not normal times, in which, of course, negotiation and compromise are the best way to achieve progress. It may be that standing firm, and not flip flopping, is now in our best interest.


  4. Kay Degenhardt Said:

    When I was in my twenties – yes I can remember that far back – I used to be so sure of myself, so sure of my life, so sure that when I responded “Never!” to a question that begged to know if I would do something, that it would be forever so. And then, one day, a very wise woman said to me, “Never say never.” Happily for me I was old enough to learn from her sage advice.

    Changing your mind doesn’t indicate an inability to stick to your guns. Rather, I believe, it simply means that you’ve remained open to other possibilities, other thinking, to other choices.

  5. Thomas Yip Said:

    As an individual compiles more information (or different information from before), I personally think it’s perfectly acceptable and encouraged to change. The bridge toll is a perfect example: subsidizing education for the needed is a good idea, and something else has to give when the MTA is in serious financial troubles.

    Critics will always excel in what they do – finding something to portray the recipient in a bad light.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    For many, such as women in the workplace, the changes have been a blessing and have a way to go. People with certain medical conditions are better off today. I also appreciate the more relaxed way we can, well, relax. We are less rigid.

    For those formerly given their places in society and in the workplace because of the luck of the draw–i.e. who their parents were and/or the last names they inherited or acquired by marriage–life may not be as rosy if the only thing they brought to the table was their bloodlines.


    Often in anger, people say they will never speak with thus and such a person again and if the offense is largely a mistake or a blurt that hurts pride, and not about abuse or some horrendous action, I try to help them soften their thought so that it is easier to take back the “I will never” words and eventually make up.

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