We rejoice in technological change when it improves the efficacy of our computers, but greet societal changes with less exuberance.
More specifically, the foot dragging is more noticeable on the role and status of women, homosexuality, abortion, immigration and government-support programs for the unfortunate.
Product improvement is critical to the success of the business enterprise, and its future requires new ideas, new tactics.
But change in public policy needs broad public buy-in, often found difficult because there’s a challenge to “principles” or “traditions” locked in place for centuries. It took almost a century to gain women’s suffrage, but once up to speed, we saw considerable progress, proved by the women now serving as university and college presidents, governors, senators and representatives, and chairing public corporations.
In my day, “a woman’s place was in the home.” A policy sustained by limited preparation for other roles. For example, women had little team or athletic activity, the place where a lot of guys learned how a group works together, understands role relationships, what happens when you drop the ball, your part in the effort.
There is minimal opportunity to learn marketable skills when the male—65 percent of the college class—monopolized the agenda.
In the 1970s, my church got on the bandwagon demanding female participation in church bodies, but then where do we find a female who had run a business, a political campaign or who could understand an operating statement?
The issue was not gender, but experience. Now, given the change, ladies grasped the new opportunity. Today’s church and its seminaries are dominated by women.
I confess to being slow coming to the party and I’m not altogether objective on social matters. I was conditioned in a county-seat town in Wisconsin during the WASP heyday.
In retrospect, I cower when recalling how we treated the few Jews or Roman Catholics who lived across the river, regarding them as second-class Americans. Finally, when they gained due status, lo and behold they were just like the rest of us!
Homosexuality better illustrates the point—a heinous crime on our Presbyterian “Oh how awful” list, condemned in both Old and New Testament as a mortal sin. It was bestial, depraved and practiced by perverts … who were surely going to hell.
This was society’s verdict, and let’s face it, abandoning or acceding to a precept accepted for 2,000 years is not readily negotiated because it says, sotto voce, “I was wrong.”
Think of it: A criminal offense so gross it’s punishable by death suddenly becomes acceptable? Ouch!
Erich Maria Remarque summarizes my point in a line from his book “All Quiet on the Western Front” that goes something like: “You cannot erase four years of killing with the one word, Peace.” Prejudice, or let’s say conviction, deeply implanted, dies hard.
The 20-year scuffle over changing societal mores indicates that mandatory (legal) interpretations may give a new legitimacy to old shibboleths, but does not necessarily change minds.
Second, ignoring the ingrained conviction of two millennia of indoctrination really needs acceptable rationale.
Beyond that, newer outlooks are much more quickly accepted if you don’t rub my nose in it. Go gently. In other words, be patient, because in another 10 years it will no longer be an issue.
Let’s cut some slack for those who have been wrong. They meant well. (It’s embarrassing to be that dumb.)•
MacAllister is chairman of MacAllister Machinery Co. Inc. and a longtime leader in Indianapolis Republican politics. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.