2015-07-26 – When have you ever heard these words: “You’re right, I’ve been wrong my entire life”?
It doesn’t happen. Or if it does, it comes after a long and painful process. People usually don’t admit to being wrong. If you get even a little movement from an adversary, you’ve done something big. We don’t like doing little things, so we belittle those moments of slight persuasion.
This happened recently when conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a review of Ta-Nehisi Coates new book Between the World and Me. This is a memoir written by a black writer about race in America. Brooks wrote: “The last year has been an education for white people.” And he said, in reference to the book, that “[e]very conscientious American should read it.” But in the end, Brooks criticizes Coates for not embracing the American dream. African-Americans can still pull themselves up by their bootstraps (my words, not Brooks).
From this review, it is clear that Brooks doesn’t GET IT. But doesn’t he get it? Liberal commentators don’t think so. They can’t take yes for an answer unless it is written in CAPITAL LETTERS.
We have a hard time taking yes for an answer. We want our adversaries to come crawling to us saying “You’re right, I’ve been wrong my entire life.” It doesn’t happen.
We see this phenomenon in the Iran deal. This is an agreement that has, in objective terms, extended the time it will take Iran to make a nuclear weapon from a few months to more than 10 years. Opponents are aghast. “Iran could have a weapon in 10 years!” they moan.
Why doesn’t the agreement require every Iranian to join Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party? They just can’t figure that out. They already have beards. They just need a different style hat. (My words, not theirs. This is sarcasm.)
The fact of the matter is that people are slow to change. Was anyone surprised that people like Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee have been running around the country talking about rejection of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling? I wasn’t. But support for their view has eroded.
You might say, Steve, doesn’t the change in public opinion on gay marriage prove that radical change can happen?
This didn’t happen overnight. Public opinion moved, over a period of decades, from “jail them,” to “yuck, just don’t talk to me about it,” to “I have gay friends,” to “domestic partnership,” to “gay marriage.” And we’re still not all the way there.
We get stuck when we insist on that great leap. Sometimes for year. Sometimes for decades. Sometimes for centuries. Great leaps don’t happen.
But little leaps do. I’ve always believed that. (Could I have been wrong my entire life?)