As Congressman Peter Welch tries to change the political atmosphere in
Washington, storyteller and commentator Willem Lange wishes him luck –
and observes that in the long run, resistance to change is said to be
(Lange) I wonder if Isaac Newton ever considered
applying his laws of motion to human society as well as inanimate
objects. The first and third in particular. The first declares that
objects (whether in motion or not) tend to keep on doing what they’re
doing (or not doing); and the third observes that for every action
there’s an opposite and equal reaction. I’d say both apply to our
response to change, which is often called the only constant.
means departing from the status quo. It happens when the status quo
becomes unbearable. English nobles forced change upon King John, and got
the Magna Carta. Martin Luther challenged the Roman Catholic Church,
which didn’t change much; but much of the rest of the world did. The
French Revolution and the American Civil War exploded because of the
gross unfairness of the status quo. Fifty years ago the United States
changed radically, thanks to the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr.,
whose birthday we celebrate this month. Change was necessary in each
case; it was resisted; and an equal and opposite force was required to
Now, consider the current gridlock in Congress. Many
Americans fear nothing can break the stalemate. Like two bull moose, the
parties are locked in a shoving contest. But something will give; you
can count on that.
Resistance to change is widespread. The State
of Mississippi , in a spasm of fading patriarchy, is considering a
"personhood" initiative outlawing abortion without exceptions, and
possibly even the use of female (note "female") contraceptives.
also a rising sentiment among conservative lawmakers favoring
"traditional" methods of execution – electric chair and firing squad –
at the same time Gallup polls show declining public support for the
Finally, for hundreds of years we’ve often
despised immigrants who’ve taken seriously the inscription on the Statue
of Liberty. They came, took miserable jobs, and wove themselves into
society. They were called the rudest of names, and suspected of horrible
crimes. Alabama ‘s recent tough immigration law caused an exodus of
Hispanic workers. The law betrayed a fear among white Alabamans of
losing their majority status. They were pushing back; Newton ‘s Law
again. But in an ironic development, Alabama ‘s tomato crop rotted in
the fields for lack of help.
As Newton might say: Action… reaction.
inertia gives way, as it did a while back in New Hampshire when the
Executive Council voted to stop funding for Planned Parenthood in their
state. Imagine their surprise when the federal government stepped in and
refunded it – causing one councilor to grumble about "government
An old Isaac Watts hymn
puts it this way : "Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its
sons away." Change; it’s happening. Consider it critically, even
skeptically. But work with it. Resistance is futile.
This is Willem Lange in Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.