Farmers can’t make the corn grow faster by pulling on the stalks.
In one of the episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show 50 years ago, Ted Baxter and his wife are trying to adopt a baby, and Ted bursts into the newsroom upset because the adoption agency told them they would have to wait nine months before getting a baby.
“Whoever heard,” Ted Baxter complained, “of waiting nine months for a baby?!”
About the same time the Supremes had a hit song with the lyrics:
Mama said you can’t hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don’t come easy
It’s a game of give and take
I was about 12 when McDonald’s set up shop in Manitowoc. I was so excited because I didn’t have to wait for my burger and fries. When I would go out with my parents for Sunday brunch, the time between making our order and the food actually arriving seemed like two forevers. But under the golden arches, the gratification was immediate.
When Danny Davis was in town last winter he told those attending his meet-and-greet to have patience with the legislative process. In contrast, patience was what the supporters of Kina Collins I talked to had lost. Issues like climate change and gun violence had reached crisis proportions, they argued, making the need for bold action urgent.
Last week the Review reported that the village was going to install two EV (electric vehicle) charging stations in Constitution Court. I suppose Danny Davis supporters would argue, “Great. That’s a good start. Be patient. More grants will be coming. It takes time.”
And I imagine Kina supporters would respond, “Are you kidding?! Only two charging stations! Nowhere near enough. Not enough water out west and too much water in Kentucky. If we don’t take immediate, urgent action in response to climate change — like not waiting for grants and immediately installing charging stations in half the parking spots between Louie’s and Doc Ryan’s — the planet will be inhospitable for our grandchildren!”
In 1965 the Byrds had a hit record of a song Pete Seeger wrote with words that seem prescient:
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.
For everything there is a season. Actually those words were in circulation 2,300 years before Seeger borrowed them: from the Book of Ecclesiastes.
So here’s a question: “Is there one season for patience and another season for urgency?”
Way back in 1896 a Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, foresaw that humans were capable of changing climate on a global scale. Sixty years later, Roger Revelle found that the ocean would not be able to absorb all of the CO2 being produced, and Charles Keeling documented annual increases in carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere.
If we started to respond back then with incremental changes, we would be correct in talking about patience. “A stitch in time,” my grandma told me, “saves nine.”
But we didn’t make the small stitches when the damage was small. So now are we in a season that calls for urgency?
Look at the Inflation Reduction Act just passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden. Chuck Schumer and the Democrats wanted $555 billion to go toward addressing climate change. What they got was $300 billion.
When asked if the glass was half full or half empty, President Biden’s response was an example of what you might call patient urgency. “This bill is far from perfect. It’s a compromise. But it’s often how progress is made. My message to Congress is this: This is the strongest bill you can pass.”
When asked the same question, Sen. Schumer replied, “If you’re doing the right thing and you persist, as [my father] put it, God will reward you and you’ll succeed.”
Do you believe that? Are you willing to accept incremental progress on issues that seem apocalyptic in their gravity?
Is Xi Jinping correct when he says that democracy doesn’t work? The framers of the Constitution intentionally build into the legislative process speed bumps that slow things down, and conservative voters keep electing representatives who slow things down even further.
I’m president of my condominium association and I was pastor of a church. Both are democracies in which the people, the real stakeholders, have the final say. I never got all of what I wanted in either one.
Before the battle, say military experts, plans are everything. During the battle, plans are nothing.
I’ve learned the value of patient urgency. In my small world, half a glass is often a win.