It is time for a change. Isn’t that what the upcoming election is all about?
In February of this year, the US News & World Report website trumpeted “One clear message from Democrats: we want big change.” Their conclusions reflected upon the primary process and the emerging desire for dramatic political change as a driving force plodding toward November. “For a majority of Democratic voters, going back to the days before Donald Trump isn’t good enough.”
A little over a month ago New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman told Anderson Cooper during an appearance on CNN, “I began my career as a journalist covering Lebanon’s second civil war in its history, and I’m terrified to find myself ending my career as a journalist covering America’s potential second civil war in its history.” His thoughts are echoed by dozens of other websites crying for a change in Washington and in politics.
The ABC-sponsored website Five Thirty Eight offered reasons “Why millions of Americans Don’t Vote.” The single largest reason stemmed from the sense that their vote will not make a difference. It will not change anything. The reason most people decide to vote rests on the hope their vote will change things.
In personal conversations with many individuals, most of them are tired of things as they are — tired of turmoil, tired of conflict, tired of mud-slinging, tired of a “Tweet-before-you-think” leader who sometimes doesn’t act very presidential. It’s time for a change, they believe.
Growing up a New York Yankees’ baseball fan, the desire for change comprises attitude and history. Alfred Manuel Martin Jr. was a scrappy second baseman who made significant contributions to championship teams during the 1950s. You may know him better by the name “Billy.”
The last team Martin played for, the Minnesota Twins, gave him a job as a scout when his playing days were over. He became a coach for them in 1965. After managing their top minor league team, the Denver Bears, Martin was made manager of the Twins in 1969. He led them to the American League West title, but was fired after the season. He was then hired by a declining Detroit Tigers’ team in 1971 and led them to the American League East title in 1972 before being fired in late 1973. A struggling Texas Rangers team hired him in 1974 when he turned them into a winning team and was fired during the next season.
Martin immediately received a call from New York Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner. During the next 10 years, Martin would be hired and fired five different times by Steinbrenner. As the New York’ skipper (1975-1978, 1979, 1983, 1985 and 1988), division titles and playing in the World Series were ways of life. The 1977 season brought World Series rings; the 1978 season brought a spot in the unemployment line.
Politics and sports do not share exclusive rights to the futility of desiring change. A recent blog post on marriage pondered, “What you get when you try to change your husband.” The article’s conclusion spouted two simple words: a divorce. The heart of the argument proposed “we’d all be better off asking ourselves if we can accept our partners before we tied the knot, instead of thinking that he is your work in progress and that he will change to your liking over time.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The fact that you cannot change people and you can only change yourself is a lesson most of us have to experience time and time again. Sometimes we learn it, only to forget it again. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins wrote, “By changing nothing, nothing changes.” Leo Tolstoy mused, “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Deepak Chopra warned, while encouraging, “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” We have the chaos part down well right now, don’t we?
One of the catch phrases that will be bantered about after the election questions the mandate from voters. Does an election guarantee a mandate for the winner? Can the government, or even a socially active base of people, transform society?
Anything seems possible, but history shows the track record lacks promise. An interesting verse shines in the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Daniel. Daniel, a prophet from God, living in exile in the country of Babylon, speaks to King Nebuchadnezzar. “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sin by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed” (Daniel 4:27).
Daniel did not suggest the king pass new laws. He was wise enough to suggest the only logical starting place that will bring about justice, prosperity and real, lasting change. Break off your own sins first. Daniel proposes two ways to do that.
Begin the change by practicing righteousness. While the word sounds like a “Christian” word or at least a “religious” word, the root is really simple. Righteousness speaks to a right way of doing things. Think of it as the right path to choose to get you to where you are going. If our journey is heaven, the only way to get there is choosing a path of grace. If our journey is justice, there may be a “right way” to get there as well.
In a phrase that harkens Hebrew parallelism, Daniel says we can break our iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed. Somewhere in the theological archives, mercy is called “unmerited favor.” Mercy is giving people a goodness they don’t deserve. God reaches to us and shows us mercy by extending a gracious opportunity for heaven. Instead of pursuing what we feel we deserve, let’s turn our attention to the welfare of others.
If enough of us change, the influence will be made on the people we send to Washington and upon the people who are already there.