“Never apologize, mister. It’s a sign of weakness.”
— Capt. Nathan Brittles (John Wayne), “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” 1949
"When my information changes, I change my mind. What do you do?”
— John Maynard Keynes (attributed)
“He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday.”
— Stephen Colbert, roasting President George W. Bush, 2006
“I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.”
— Indiana Jones, (Harrison Ford) “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” 1981
(Just 31 more aphorisms and I’ll have a whole column.)
And you may find yourself at the head of a global religious institution that, like other religious institutions, has to appear to be permanent and unchanging at the same time it is seen as keeping up with rapidly changing social mores, always in danger of cheesing off half the world if you appear to go too far one way or the other.
And you may find yourself in the skin of an aging duff, who has spent his entire adult life in the upper circles of power, trying to remain relevant long enough to take one last shot at becoming president of the United States, torn between sticking to your reputation as a guy who is strong enough to hug people because he really cares about them or evolving into a sensitive new-age guy who respects women’s personal space.
And you may ask yourself, Well, how did I get here?
And how do I work this?
Joe Biden, to his credit, appears to have decided that he will not try to brazen out a string of lies about how he never really touched, hugged, rubbed, caressed or passingly fondled all those women, and not a few men, many of whom he had met for the first time only seconds before. It’s all on tape, after all, though that never stopped the current occupant of the Oval Office from lying his butt off daily about things known to be otherwise.
The last thing the Democratic Party needs right now is a candidate who can be portrayed as matching the other party’s standard-bearer grope for grope.
The former senator, former vice president, the committee chairman who allowed the official sliming of Anita Hill, has chosen to put an improved spin on the old political/corporate non-denial denial consent decree. Instead of, “I didn’t do anything wrong and I promise I’ll never do it again,” his line is that an old dog can learn new tricks, can be “more respectful of people’s personal space," without any real apologies or promises to renounce a style of politics that “is about connecting with people.”
Really connecting with people, after all, means not carelessly forcing them into situations that, even when they are not seen by anyone as sexual harassment or assault, or even coming on to someone, might reasonably be perceived as overly familiar to the point of being demeaning.
What Biden, and any other politician trying to adapt to changing times, lacks is the cover story that he is only doing what God wanted him to do yesterday, and what God wants him to do today, even though one is very different from the other. That dodge generally rests on the other side of the wall between church and state.
Where lies The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Which, just days before its semi-annual General Conference, announced to the world that it has officially changed its divinely inspired mind about how the church should treat children being nurtured in the households of same-sex parents. Not like trash.
Leaders of the LGBT community were generally gracious enough not to openly wonder how come God changed his mind, or whether those whose job it is to interpret God’s word were hard-of-hearing in 2015, when the church said it considered same-sex couples “apostates” and basically banned their children from church membership, or Thursday, when they said, effectively, “Never mind.”
If you are happy someone changed their mind, and will want them to change their mind on more things in the future, then you certainly don’t take the opportunity to accuse them of being confused, wibbly-wobbly or dishonest. You praise their open-minded capacity for growth and recognize how difficult it can be, especially for those in positions of temporal or spiritual power, to leave themselves open to charges of abandoning their principles or their followers.
Especially when those followers want to believe that they are adhering to principles, not just following people who happen to be in power.
And who aren’t comfortable with an eternal truth of humanity. We are making this up as we go.
George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, has conveniently forgotten any time he changed his mind about something important. firstname.lastname@example.org