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Pyle: If you can’t handle the future, don’t go there

By George Pyle

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published May 23 2014 05:40 pm • Last Updated May 25 2014 07:23 am

"I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess." — Red Green, "The Man’s Prayer"

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As a means of getting out of the office, avoiding work and putting another cup of coffee or two on my employer’s tab, I once had this occasional gig called, inventively, "Coffee with the Editor."

I’d put a note in the newspaper I was running at the time, letting folks know that I’d be at so-and-so’s coffee shop at such-and-such time and, if they’d come by and chat about the news, the newspaper or anything else that was weighing on their minds, I’d buy.

Sometimes, there were donuts

One morning, the tab was running at the local technical college. Most of the folks who stopped to chat were what we used to call "non-traditional" students who had come back after a stint in the military, or a run at what turned out to be a dead-end job, for some highly marketable skills.

A notable exception was this fireplug of a man who often came to these functions so he could tell me what a jerk I was for running a newspaper that was friendly to gay people, Wiccan priestesses and Democrats.

To his credit, he didn’t drink any of my coffee. And, given his precise theological references, I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with anyone being Mormon.

I was familiar with the fellow and confident that he wasn’t going to get violent, so I heard him out and he left.

Some of the others gathered about, though, were a little steamed that my anti-groupie had taken up so much time. These students had classes, and jobs, and families, to get to and homework to do, but had hoped to talk to the newspaper guy about rising tuitions, veterans’ benefits, child care woes and, perhaps most crucial to both them and me — though they knew it and I didn’t — how to pick a field of study that wouldn’t become obsolete before they’d paid off their student loans.

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As I was settling up with the cafeteria manager, a beefy Army pilot turned avionics student made a perceptive observation.

Most of the people who frequent a technical college, or any college, are there because they are scurrying as fast as they can to keep up with, even embrace, change. The one non-student who had been there that morning had come expressly to do all he could to oppose change.

Guess who made the right bet there?

Not all change is inevitable. Or good. But handling change, learning how to live with it, benefit from it, lead others through it, is a desirable trait for everyone.

Right now, Utahns are faced with a lot of changes, from the inevitability of marriage equality to the end of the carbon-based economy, from a massive overhaul of health care access to an ethnic and religious mix that includes minority-majorities, duel identities and none-of-the-aboves.

What we don’t need is an attorney general who hires outside ideologues in an expensive and hopeless attempt to preserve Utah’s anti-gay marriage Amendment 3. Or a governor who describes the decision made by officials in other states to accept this great advance in human history as "anarchy."

We’re much better off with the kind of sympathetic call for understanding that closed the decision by the federal judge who threw out Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.

"Where will all this lead?" U.S. District Judge Michael McShane asked as he closed his opinion. "I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other ... and rise."

Those who aspire to lead us should be those who can talk us through those changes, and a lot more, with a minimum of finger-pointing or pointless nostalgia. They should never feel, or raise money by helping others feel, that they are being persecuted by the natural evolution of our culture.

Politicians and thinkers who promise us they will hold back those changes may get elected, or raise money. But they can’t be called leaders if all they are doing is pining for the good old days.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, often wishes he had followed that technical college student into his computer coding class.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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