Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 20, 2012

Phil Power: When change is not good

BY PHIL POWER, Columnist
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---- — Like many other dogs, my black Lab, HomeTown, has a bed in the back hallway. It used to be his preferred snoozing place. But no longer. Several weeks ago, he chewed a big hole in the bed cover, and we sewed a piece of heavy cloth over the hole.

HomeTown has yet to sleep on his newly recovered bed.

Change for humans is just as tough as for dogs.

I used to think schools were absolutely safe places for little children. I remember how I felt when I dropped my son, Nathan, off for his first kindergarten day at Logan School. I was plenty emotional, like most parents on that day. But I never imagined that Nathan's school — or any school, for that matter — could be a death trap.

Several parents told me recently they breathe a sigh of relief when they pick up their kid at the end of the school day.

This is a big change, one that I do not like at all. Change is, of course, a necessary part of life. These days, I've devoted much of my life to the Center for Michigan, which is dedicated to bringing about needed changes in our state.

But not all change is good, and some of the changes in our lives these days make me feel too many things are out of control.

After last week's massacre in Connecticut, guess what's on the minds of countless parents dropping their children off at school this week? It isn't Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

This is especially so after legislative passage last week of the a bill sponsored by State Sen. Mike Green (R-Mayville) that likely will increase the chances of somebody walking into your child's school openly carrying a hand gun. Of course, Green didn't know what was coming in Newtown when he introduced his bill.

But there are a whole bunch of parents today in Michigan whose feelings about the safety of their children in school are very different than they were a week ago.

"Uncomfortable" is only the mildest way to put it.

Change is, indeed, tough.

For years, one of the eternal verities of Michigan politics was the power of unions in this incubator of the labor movement. That got changed last week when the governor signed the Right to Work bill. And as a result of this enormous change, emotions — both pro and con — are running high. Nobody quite knows how to adjust.

Change makes lots of people very uneasy.

Over the weekend, it rained and temperatures soared into the 50's. When I was a kid, we would have had snow on the ground by now — I remember we had nine inches on December 9th when I was 10 years old. Now we are in the grip of global climate change that makes Michigan feel a lot like Tennessee.

And I don't like this change, either.

We also used to wish each other "Merry Christmas" at this time of the years. Seeking not to offend, we now offer "Happy Holidays". I don't like that, either. Nor do I like that the malls now put up Christmas decorations in October, (not, clearly, for heaven's sake.) Meanwhile, all the news coverage of "Black Friday" shopping activity gives the impression that Christmas is a macroeconomic event instead of a secularized religious holiday.

So in this age of rapid change, I'm a lot like my dog, HomeTown. I don't want to snooze on my new bed.

I want the old one back.

Which is why we cling so tightly to the old ways. When I was growing up, my parents and their friends would get together three or four times a year at this season to sing Christmas carols together, followed by supper. When my parents died, the practice petered out. When I married Kathy, we decided to bring it back. So two Sundays ago, around 60 of our friends gathered at our house to sing together.

We ended the musical part of the evening by singing "Silent Night" in German.

And everybody had a seasonal snort and wished each other "Merry Christmas." It's a tradition that I hope will last unchanged a long, long time in our family. It makes me feel solid, secure and comfortable.

Maybe in this era of rapid change, hanging on to those few things that are lasting, and therefore powerful and emotional, is the best Christmas present of all.

Former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan Regent Phil Power is a longtime observer of Michigan politics and economics. He is also the founder and chairman of the Center for Michigan, a nonprofit, bipartisan centrist think—and—do tank, designed to cure Michigan's dysfunctional political culture; the Center also publishes Bridge Magazine. The opinions expressed here are Power's own and do not represent the official views of the Center. He welcomes your comments at ppower@thecenterformichigan.net.