The term flip-flopper generally evokes notions of politician’s charges against one another as they change their positions on issues. It suggests that one or the other is being hypocritical as they are altering their positions as it becomes politically expedient to do so. During the Bush-Kerry campaign, the Republicans were the aggressor more often in using this tactic.
I wondered at that time, why Kerry or his advisers hadn’t come out of the defensive stance against such charges and introduced the notion of new thinking and new learning. In other words, as one gains new information and has new insights, ought not their position change? It seemed that the Bush people were taking the stance that once you had a position, it should never be altered or modified. This is curious thinking. We should feel compelled to question the validity of the charge before we defend ourselves. Could you imagine the possibilities if Kerry’s response against flip-flopping went something like this: “Of course my position has changed over time. I am a thinking man and as such I take in new information and am open to new considerations. Are you suggesting President Bush that once your mind is made up, the cement has dried and there is no evolving of thought?”
Last week, Barack Obama indicated that upon his upcoming visit to Iraq, he would meet with the military commanders and perhaps refine his position on withdrawal. The immediate McCain camp’s response is that Obama was flip-flopping. Let’s consider the word refine. It suggests a deepening of thinking and position, a serious comtemplation based upon an evolving intellect. Indeed, it is altogether possible that Mr. Obama’s refinement of position might lead him to hasten the troop withdrawal.
In life outside of the political arena as well, it is so vital that we communicate with deeper meaning and authenticity. Doing so requires that we not necessarily defend ourselves against charges, but come in to the deeper integrity of why our thinking has altered. Is it simply the convenience of shifting without a deeper grounding or is there reason for this new position? Albert Einstein was a leading pacifist during the the early 1930’s. He was adamantly opposed to war or armed conflict. Yet, the rise of Hitler’s aggression caused Einstein to reconsider his philosophical stance. New informations, new events modified his position. How ridiculous would it have been to charge him with being a flip-flopper?
I for one admire people whose thoughts and beliefs are open to their own ongoing scrutiny. As such, there is a detachment from ego and a commitment to continuous learning. Such a transition would assist us, not only in the polticial realm, but in our everyday lives as well.