April 25, 2000

Capacity for change

Banner ads occupying most of my time again today. Still fun, though.

Saw the second part of a documentary on George Wallace tonight (on WQED). It wasn't bad, but I thought they could have done a better job putting Wallace in context. There's only so much you can do in three hours for a person as complicated as that who lived in times as complicated as they were.

I suppose the most intriguing were the post-1976 and the pre-1958 portraits, where he basically re-made himself entirely. The first was changing from one of the most liberal judges in Alabama to a demogogue focused on racial division as a means to achieve power.

Oddly, people like his daughter and others seemed more comfortable explaining his viciousness through his thirst for power rather than mean-spiritedness or just plain evil. I'm not sure which is worse. At least you know where the evil person stands. It's no wonder politicians have a bad name.

Then after 1976, he seemed to realize that his actions over the last 20 years had hurt, physically and spiritually, huge numbers of people. So he repented, confessed his sins to his enemies. And he came back to the governor's office one more time, in 1982. He hired record numbers of blacks to office, and likely did a number of other good things as well. These actions can't excuse what he did (nothing can), but it was interesting to hear about someone who, by all accounts, could just as easily spent the rest of his days brooding about what might have been rather than try to remake himself.

They showed parts of a speech he gave when he decided to retire from politics for good, and it was truly moving. The quaking of his voice deeply stressed the fact that this person was torn apart by the things he'd done, and he tried as best he could to repair things with what he had. One can only assume that he ran into numerous roadblocks in the early 1980s that he himself had created throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

I always say that, "People don't change." That doesn't mean that people can't change, just that it's difficult and very few people want to go through the effort. Nor do they think they need to (myself included, of course). Most people don't have pendulums swinging quite so far, either...

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