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Say you want change? Well, go do something

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - 12:01 am

Let's begin 2013 by trying something different.

When George Santayana observed that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it, he was talking about big things and large arcs of time. If we don’t study the conditions that led to, say, the downfall of the Roman Empire, we risk losing our own nation.

But lessons can also be learned from less momentous things and smaller arcs of time. As we say goodbye to 2012, for example, we might call it the Year of the Status Quo. The lesson learned might be that recognizing a wrong path is only the first part of the job – we must then take active steps to change paths. But voters last year, after complaining loudly about the lousy state of affairs, then cast their ballots in precisely the way guaranteed to keep the state of affairs exactly as is.

In Indiana, that meant keeping Republicans in charge of the governor’s office and both houses of the General Assembly – and even adding a few more Republicans to the House to prevent Democrats from walking out. It meant kicking out Tony Bennett as superintendent of public instruction – too many radical ideas! – and putting in Democrat Glenda Ritz to achieve stalemate with GOP legislators. It meant punishing Richard Mourdock both for his extremist tea party intentions and for defeating kindly, moderate Richard Lugar.

Nationwide, they complained about the worst economy since the Depression, then re-elected the president whose efforts helped create it and whose policies will certainly prolong it. They spoke out against government deficits and the unsustainable debt, then gave the House a GOP majority again, guaranteeing a continued gridlock that will result in an even bigger government that spends even more – inertia is powerful.

Sometimes we fear movement because we’re OK where we are – not ecstatic but at least content. Sometimes even when things aren’t going well, we fear the devil we don’t know over the one we already have. And sometimes we stay where we are because that’s the easiest thing to do.

But growth only comes from change; we have to risk making things worse to make them better. The start of a new year is a chance to take those risks.

So, happy 2013. Go do something different.