The Pendulum

I bought a mechanical watch a couple of weeks ago. Not only it is mechanical, but also transparent, such that I can see the gears, the winding spring, and many other parts including the pendulum going back and forth every fraction of a second. One thing I noticed in this mechanical marvel is the absence of any damping. I mean the kind of damping that happens in shock absorbers in cars. If you are not familiar with damping, you just need to know this: it happens when two sides are approaching or separating each other.

We just had elections in the US, and the analogy between my new watch and the election results was clear to me. Elections results reflect where the society is going, swinging like a pendulum from one side to the other with a given frequency, in every single issue. However, there is a difference between the watch pendulum and the society’s pendulum: the magnitude of the movement for each social issue keeps diminishing as time passes. In physics terms, it has damping. It converges, eventually, to what the vast majority of society accepts (there will always be outliers who disagree in any issue).

For instance, the women’s right to vote was controversial for more than 130 years after the US constitution was written. During those years, and years after the constitutional amendment in 1920, the swings of the pendulum against and forth was smaller and smaller until today when there is no swinging any more. This right is “so obvious” that we can’t imagine why it was not in the constitution when the founding (all male) fathers wrote it. If we ask to a republican or a democrat whether women’s should have the right to vote, they would laugh for being such a ridiculous question. As a side note, it was in 1984 (just 30 years ago) that the state of Mississippi ratified this amendment. What world were they living in between 1920 and 1984?

Now we can do the analogy in issues of present times: abortion, LGBT marriages, universal health care, immigration reform, foreign policy in the Middle East, right to bear arms, euthanasia, minimum salary, drug legalization, and so on. Each one of these are issues that still oscillate from one side to the other and we may need to wait years or decades to see them disappear as oscillatory issues like the women’s right to vote did. In the mean time, we have to accept to be in the side of the winners some times, and in the side of the losers some other times (unless your convictions oscillate as well).

In any case, we have to wait many years to see a proof that all such issues have disappeared. For that to happen, this is an scenario: an elected US president that is non-christian, non-straight, non-white, non-male human being with a vision to create a better society, and that can guide this country to a prosperous, peaceful era without Sandy Hook massacres or Trayvon Martin’s shootings, without 8-year boys crossing the Arizona dessert to meet their moms, without sending our sons and daughters to die fighting all over the world, with the right to die as we want, with a salary that is proper to live decently, with CEOs making a just salary compared to the average worker, with politicians that work for the people and not for corporations. I won’t see this, but I know it will come after many oscillations of the damped society’s pendulum.


Ciro A. Soto Aguirre©