By Ralph Trenary
Musicals have always been a significant part of my family life. As a small guy I learned all of the boys’ songs from “Oliver.” Then, after my voice changed I moved on to learn songs that were beyond my stage presence or character to be able to perform. They were just great tunes or had meaningful lyrics.
In these tumultuous times “Fiddler on the Roof” is worth considering in light of the controversy over “change.” For several decades now I’ve easily accepted the foundational truth that change is constant. That puts me at odds with the recent crop of political agitators who have found it fashionable and advantageous to advocate returning to the past.
Those who claim the solution to new problems is to make things like they “used to be” just make me suspicious. My grandparents explained how much America had changed since they were kids before the Great War, married in 1930, survived the Great Depression in Oklahoma and experienced the Space Age with astronaut-crazy grandsons. “That changed” or “This is new” were never fearful concepts for us.
The constant in my life lessons from family, friends and valued mentors has been to hold onto core values and principles. But, that is a contrast to getting overly attached to an old process. I now realize this means protecting values and principles while adjusting and taking advantage of what the future holds before us.
In fact, I resisted computers for almost a decade. My first experience playing “WAMPUM” over a dial-in tele-typewriter keyboard didn’t produce any enthusiasm. I thought about computer programming as a college major in 1982 — briefly. But then, an Army friend showed me in 1988 how a word processor could make my life easier. Computers have been part of my success ever since.
Now I’m seeing denial of change and resistance to new ways of accomplishing critical personal and community goals accelerating and becoming more entrenched in the past. The heated rhetoric shows no desire of reaching an agreeable solution, just winning a fight, seemingly at any cost.
“Fiddler on the Roof” reminds me of the need to recognize traditions, but effectively drives home the lesson that if you ignore and deny change there are likely to be painful consequences. When I see and hear the no-change crowd pushing their agenda, I am all the more certain that they are bound for that remorseful path out of Anatevka, like Tevye and his family at the end of the show.
The facts are out there on the issues and decisions that are needed in our communities, state, nation and world. Pushing past the hateful language, insults and stereotypes is a challenge. Too many political agitators start with insults and fear. That’s my best indicator to turn them off and look elsewhere for how to make my decisions.
Honoring and remembering our forefathers must play an important part in a healthy and successful life. That’s part of why I follow the Seven Generations philosophy. All too often I hear the “no-birds” squawking, “I don’t like this…I’ll be inconvenienced.” That does nothing to convince me that they are advancing a position or policy decision that protects the interests of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Maybe it’s because I feel like Tevye in a complex and sometimes confusing world, making decisions for myself, my family and actively participating in the American means of decision-making called democracy. This is only made more difficult by the noise coming from the “no-birds” and false patriots. And perhaps having a violinist in the neighborhood isn’t such a bad thing.