Goldberg: Flip-flopping is positively American

When politicians change their minds, opponents attack and call them flip-floppers, usually an effective technique since people tend to question someone's abilities as they learn that individual has changed positions.

Changing one's mind becomes a death sentence for politicians. It's more important for people to stick to their guns than to be right. This is a direct result of the fact that our society has stigmatized the concept of changing one's mind. This stigma works twofold.

First, people who "stick to their guns" are admired for being strong minded and doing what they think is right, regardless of what others think of them. This is the founding principle of our country: independence. Of course we will admire someone with an unbending, independent will; that's why we're a country today.

But there's a huge problem here - and that's the second effect of this stigmatization. If people admit that they are wrong and change their minds, they are immediately accused of being weak and indecisive, of bending to the pressures of others. This is a result of our culture's need to create dichotomies and define things in terms of opposites. Therefore, if not changing one's mind is good, then changing one's mind is bad.

This conclusion isn't wrong. It is not that a person must act independently of others and therefore never back down from their beliefs, but a person must be strong enough in character to admit mistakes in order to correct them. One can change one's mind and still maintain an independence that keeps them from being persuaded by the Marc Antonys of the world. In fact, this would be the ideal mentality for a person in a position of leadership or a person with any kind of power to have.

There are two main justifications for reversing this stigma:

First, there is such a thing as being too independent. In a civilization where the actions of any one individual affect the well-being of those around them, it is irresponsible not to take into consideration others' ideas. Also, if one adheres strictly to one's own set ideas, then there is little room for progress because there is little inclination to admit the need for change.

Most dangerously, if one refuses to change one's mind even when presented with evidence that he or she is wrong, foolish or careless courses of action may be followed through due to nothing but stubbornness - a stubbornness that our society at the moment misguidedly praises.

Second, being strong enough in character to admit you're wrong allows a person to adapt to changing environments. If one maintains a more fluid outlook, one is more inclined to choose the best course of action possible without the motivation to maintain an earlier held position that may very well be wrong.

Of course, one can easily go too far and become an inconsistent mess. The point is not to say that everyone should flip-flop and then justify it by saying that they were just admitting that they were wrong. The point is to de-stigmatize the concept of changing one's mind so that in our daily lives we can drop our egos at the door and do what is truly right in a situation, be it consistent with our preconceived ideas or not.