Standing in the way of progress

To the editor:

I tend to accept and even promote all sorts of changes, but I disagreed with the new policy that allows women to serve in combat positions in our military.

Then I heard a female helicopter pilot, wounded in Afghanistan but unable to apply for a promotion because of her gender, say, “In every step of progress in our nation’s history there have been people who have tried to make it more difficult.” I realized that I was standing in the way of progress and making her life more difficult. I changed my mind.

When I resist change, it’s usually because I’m afraid of the unknowns ahead. It’s a lack of faith in “the long arc of history that bends toward justice” (Martin Luther King, Jr’s words.) It’s putting my attachment to what is familiar and seemingly secure ahead of the common good.

Our country was founded by courageous people who took risks and embraced the future. The “land of the free” they built can only be maintained by forward-looking citizens.

When I change my mind, I often have to admit I might have been wrong. For some reason, it’s easy to accept new information about diet, health and style, but when I learn something that affects my long-held political or religious beliefs, it’s easier to challenge or discredit the source of information than to do the difficult work of changing my mind.

What Alexander Pope said 300 years ago is true today: “A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.”

Many people are resisting changes that aim to reduce gun violence in this country. When I listen to their voices, I do not sense the same calm determination that I detected in that female helicopter pilot. She risked her life for this “home of the brave,” while the gun lobby stirs up distrust and fear of the very government this woman has served. She confidently works for change while others stubbornly, sometimes angrily, resist it.

Our Constitution allows us to revisit and reverse decisions that do not produce the intended results. I am grateful to all those who want to improve this country, and I will try not to make their work more difficult by resisting change.