By Michael Strelcheck
Recent events involving our country have been unnerving! Our culture prides itself on its ability to control outcomes, which in turn provides everyone with a sense of safety and security. But lately it seems as if there’s a new trend of “uncertainty” manifesting that has led to a state of increasing national anxiety.
To name a few of these things; the last couple of hurricanes that have threatened the East Coast and the Caribbean (Irma, Jose) baffled expert predictions by displaying unexpected reversals or “U-turns” in their paths. In Irma’s case we found that, as it approached Florida it seemed to “flip-flop” several times, as to which side of the peninsula it was going to follow. Then, at the last moment, Irma seemed to decide that the middle of the road would be better and went inland and north through the center of the state, thankfully, lessening the damage this monster could have wreaked. José as well has confused meteorologists with its weird path which has included a number of U-turns in the Atlantic Ocean which amounted to an oblong circle several hundred miles off the East coast. As I write, José, who turned away from the East coast two days ago, is just starting its second U-turn aiming back towards U.S. shores. Hopefully it will change its mind again and go back out in the ocean. But, at this time, it looks like these storms’ unexpected U-turns have helped to dampen their destructive potential.
If these storm systems were humans we would probably consider them a little schizoid. Making a U-turn, or deciding on a sudden change of direction (or opinion) is considered by our culture as a “weakness,” an act of confusion or unreliability. But this trend seems to be spreading, for we have recently experienced similar effects in our government, with the President suddenly and unexpectedly making a number of U-turns. Perhaps these effects were created by “something in the water?” Or maybe some greater force is intervening? Many of our founding fathers truly believed that America was blessed with divine providence, and counted on that guidance and care when breaking free from Britain. One has to admit, the Colonies showed real “pluck” revolting against the world’s most powerful empire, which had to be considered at the time, one of the more bone-headed U-turns someone could make.
What political U-turns have occurred that got things buzzing? Mr. Trump suddenly demonstrated a reversal on his perspective in his immigration policy. After choosing to end the “Dream Act” due to it being unconstitutional, he shocked everyone by directing congress to find a way to make the program work legally, and if it couldn’t do that, he said he would revisit his decision! Then upon the heels of that U-turn, he was then faced with the dire need for relief in Texas and the Gulf coast after hurricane Harvey (only weeks before) ravaged its coastal communities. In his effort to get the money approved for FEMA (as well as to fund the government, which was about to run out of money), he again shocked everyone by reaching out to the opposition Democratic leadership and “cut a deal” with them to do both. This sudden deviation from recent policy ruffled a lot of the Republican Party’s feathers, but seemed effective in its results. The sense of accomplishment that the President felt must have inspired him in an unexpected way, for he now seems to be following a more “middle of the road” approach going forward. Perhaps the man who was elected for his legendary skill of negotiating good deals, suggested by his book The Art of the Deal, may be working on a new skill – the Art of the U-Turn!
I did some research and lo and behold I found a book on U-Turning. Bruce Grierson who, in his 2007 book, U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were living the Wrong Life? wrote, “To flip-flop is human. Oh, sure, it can still sometimes be a political liability, evidence of a flaky disposition or rank opportunism. But there are circumstances in which not to reverse course seems almost pathological. From modest recants – Oprah Winfrey on James Frey, NBA commissioner David Stern on leather balls, Rupert Murdoch on global warming – to full on ideological 180’s, reappraisal is in the air. The view long held by social psychologists that people very rarely change their beliefs seems itself in need of revision.”
In general “flip-floppers” get a bad name, but often the best course of action is to reverse course when something is stalled or isn’t going forward constructively. Perhaps these recent events are helping our culture move towards a fundamental change, psychologically speaking, where it becomes okay for a person to change their mind – as to what they think they need to do – without risking being criticized as unreliable or confused. God knows, if changing course in the middle of a crisis works – why wouldn’t we do it?