Letter from the President

Originally published in the printed bar journal, Communiqué (March 2017).

The March of Time

Tami D. Cowden is Of Counsel with Greenberg Traurig LLP. Tami has more than 20 years’ experience as an appellate attorney with a focus on representations in the Supreme Court of Nevada and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Tami serves as President of the CCBA through December 2017. Contact her at cowdent@gtlaw.com.

At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past. –Maurice Maeterlinck

I believe I have previously mentioned that curse about living in interesting times. Knowledgeable sources (i.e., Wikipedia and Quote Investigator) say that this phrase did not actually come from the Chinese, but instead, from Neville Chamberlain’s father. Regardless of the origin of the “curse,” we are currently experiencing it.

Times are “interesting” right now because there is a substantial separation in our country, between one side largely described as “conservative” and the other as “liberal.” These two terms actually have many meanings, but, for our purposes, consider the following from the choices offered by Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary (1983):

  • Liberal: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition.
  • Conservative: tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions; traditional.

In short, our country is engaged in a war over tradition, with one side striving to return to the “views, conditions, or institutions” that the other side holds were best abandoned.

Tradition does often have much to recommend it. Holding fast to the status quo offers the comfort of certainty, even if that certainty is far from ideal. Embracing new ideas carries with the risk that conditions will worsen, rather than improve. And it is not only those for whom the status quo works who have such concerns. It is a human tendency to prefer the known to the unknown.

Accepting change means accepting the uncertainty that comes with it, as well as the visceral fearful reaction we experience with that uncertainty. Even though the political, social, and economic changes that have occurred in recent years might reflect the evolution of civilization itself, uncertainty about how a changing world affects individuals can make people feel as though they are personally under attack. And it is natural for those who feel personally attacked to lash out, decrying the motives of those who seek change and waving the banner of tradition to justify their defensive measures.

History proves that change always prevails. We just have to survive the interim battle.