When I was a baby, I used to pee in my diaper. When I was eight, I wanted to be a storm chaser. When I was a tween, I straightened my hair. When I was in college, I was a self-described hippie and a registered libertarian.
At 27 years old, I am now potty-trained, I work in communications, I leave my hair in its naturally curly state, and I no longer wear patchouli and am now a proud, registered Democrat.
Man, what a flip-flopper!
Apparently, the alterations I’ve made in appearance, career, and ideology make me join the long list of people, particularly politicians, who are labeled as opportunists for changing views over time once new information is learned and new experiences are had.
Conservatives, and even some liberals, loved to call President Obama a flip-flopper for his transformation regarding same-sex marriage, which he underwent after having conversations with his daughters who have friends with gay parents. He learned how the issue affected families, how it affected his own children’s feelings, and how it affected millions of his constituents.
And he evolved.
He also wasn’t the only one to be called opportunistic.
A video released on Youtube that went viral earlier this year misleadingly entitled “Hillary Clinton Lying for 13 Minutes” kicks off with footage of the now Democratic presidential nominee stating her support for traditional marriage in the 90’s and early 2000’s. It then fast-forwards to 2013 when Hillary announced she was a proud supporter of gay marriage.
According to the creator of this video, and many other people in this country, shifting one’s stance equates lying.
A lot of people in this world who aren’t okay with gay marriage end up changing their minds once they realize people they love are gay. My own family members underwent this when I came out a few years ago.
And evolving doesn’t just involve this one issue.
Many people in my life slammed unions throughout the years. Growing up, I pretty much only heard bad things about organized labor—lazy workers, corrupt leaders, etc. Then I graduated college and got the opportunity to work in communications with a progressive labor union.
Oh, how the tables turn.
I am now one of the biggest advocates for unions out there because I was exposed to new information. I met members who work day in and day out who not only clock in their regular hours, but also go above and beyond serving their community.
Unions also play a huge role in advancing all workers, not just their own members, in advocating for increased wages, better and more affordable health care, and health and safety improvements.
These are things I might not have known had I not gotten the job that I still hold today at the union.
Former U.S. representative Bob Inglis is another “flip-flopper” who found a new stance on a popular yet divisive issue—climate change.
After adamantly opposing legislation to help curb environmental destruction, Inglis shifted after briefings from scientists and encouragement from his children. He admitted his progressive position, knowing it would cost him his seat in Congress. So clearly he wasn’t using his new stance to further his political career.
Folks, this is what happens. You get older. You learn. You experience. You engage. You change.
Or at least you should.
Changing policies and tactics and views in the name of progress and the greater good should never be seen as opportunism. It means you are learning, you are open-minded, and you’re paying attention to the evolving times triggered by diversity and modern challenges.
It means you aren’t stuck in a stance that is no longer moving you forward and it means you aren’t preying on people’s vulnerabilities. If anything, conservatives who take advantage of voters’ fears and bigotry are opportunists.
People like Donald Trump who are seeking boosts to their ego and fame attempt to pit one group of people against the other for their own advantage and entertainment. Keeping everyone pinned at the bottom or stuck exactly where they are means less work for you and less accountability you will have to accept.
But this isn’t the America I believe in.
America, to me, is the country that kicked slavery to the curb even though many once felt it was their divine right to own others. America, to me, is the country that gave women the right to vote even though many men once believed we didn’t possess the intelligence or status to have that right. America, to me, is the country that now allows gay people to be married even though many once falsely claimed it would bring the downfall of society (it hasn’t).
But these things didn’t come naturally or easily. People fought for those changes. People died for those changes. And people evolved for those changes.
We are allowed to alter ourselves. We are allowed to transform. We are allowed to switch teams. Humans aren’t necessarily made to be static. If we were, we would not have gotten as far as we have as a society.
So I hope to see more of this. I hope to see more Clintons and Obamas and Inglises who leave their old, outdated views behind for the sake of moving this nation forward where it belongs.
After all, there’s a reason crimped hair and acid wash jeans aren’t popular anymore. They just. didn’t. work.