Sunday, July 6

Just Ramblin, No 7: Flip flops (politicians, not footwear)

When I was growing up, flip flops were a sandal-like shoe. A simple rubber contraption with a sole and a piece that came up from the sole, through the first two toes with a strip that extended from that center between-the-toes piece and connected on either side of your foot. And way too often if you hooked the tip of the flip flop under something, that between-the-toes piece would pop up through the sole, so you'd have to sit down and shove it back through. Simple and not remotely elegant, but servicable. Now you can spend up to $400 on a pair of flip flops which shouldn't be called flip flops if they cost more than $1.99. I mean, seriously.

For awhile we called them "slaps." That was on the beachside of the Melbourne, FL area. I think we called them slaps when we could them in a sort of straw material so they made a slapping sound. But maybe it was just because we called them that for no particular reason.

So now flip flops can be ridiculously expensive, available in nearly every color, available as platforms (what is that all about?), and appropriately (I use that word loosely) decorated for pedi day. Gag.

But the term "flip flop" has been appropriated by the fourth estate. To "flip flop" seems to be the most pejorative way to describe the changing of one's mind. A recent CNN poll indicates that voters think both presidential candidates flip flop. Shocking! Of course they do. Everyone flip flops. EVERYONE.

When was the last time you changed your mind about what you wanted to wear to work or out for some sort of event? You're a sartorial flip flopper! When was the last time you changed your mind about what you wanted to have for dinner? You're a gourmet flip flopper? When was the last time you realized that what you thought was true 20 years based on the information you had then was no longer true and you believed something else to be true? Ahh, you devious issues flip flopper!

Get a grip. Of course we change our minds over time. At least I hope we do. We learn more, we gather more information, we have more experience, we have seen more, we have discussed more, we have read more. Theoretically we have a broader and deeper view of the world. So if we change our minds, are we really flip flopping or are we simply maturing in the way we think and see the world?

Is there legitimate flip flopping? Once I stop giggling over the ridiculousness of the question, I suppose the answer is "yes." When a politician (and note I mean "politician," not "civil servant") seems to change his or her mind, it is likely because there is an ill wind blowing over his or her current position. So to make sure the majority of the constiuents, at least for the moment, aren't too ticked off, the politician establishes an erstwhile position based on that wind. Which means it's a surprise those folks don't get dizzy from all that flopping around on the issues.

But I say leave footwear out of this discussion. When a politician changes his or her mind legitimately because there is new information, better information, etc., then let the person change his or her mind and give that person opportunity to provide context. And when a politician makes a sudden shift of position because the old position wasn't popular with the voting public (or the media), call it what it is: opportunism and cowardice.

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