Staff Editorial: Change is difficult, from roundabouts to politics

If you’ve ever driven in Mason, you know how bad Mason drivers are. The fact of the matter is that every member of our staff who can drive has been witness to some horrible act of automotive ignorance. Whether they were in front of, behind, next to, or inside the offending car, we’ve all experienced some indescribably idiotic things happening on the road, and the chances are that at least one of those happened on a roundabout. 

They should be a simple maneuver, but most drivers have no idea how to make their way around them. They’ll waltz their way in and come to a full stop. They’ll go halfway in and try to pull back. They might even go through the wrong way, which is simply baffling. And not a single driver who takes roundabouts regularly can say that they haven’t missed their turn and had to awkwardly go all the way around again in what should be called the circle of shame. 

Even then, it’s been proven that roundabouts are faster, safer, and more fuel efficient than the traditional four-way intersection. Technically speaking, they’re an improvement for most situations. They’re better for the environment and the economy, but they have a few downsides: Most prominently, many people don’t properly learn to drive on them. It isn’t difficult, but so many people are scared, worried, and unwilling to change that they freeze up. That’s down to the fact that they never learned how to deal with them. Some drivers even go completely out of their way to avoid them, just because they’re so adjusted to conventional intersections.

That complacency in convention isn’t just reserved to the roads, however — today’s political climate is imbalanced. 

It’s rooted in extremes: In the discrepancy between those who want every intersection to be a roundabout and those who would be happy not seeing one for the rest of their lives. What many don’t realize is that both have a place. While some intersections might be better-suited to a roundabout, others are more likely to work with a basic intersection or four-way stop. Even more than that, there are simply some intersections that will only work traditionally, or other ones that would completely fall apart were people to try and regulate it with traffic lights or stop signs. 

But regardless, that doesn’t stop most people from taking sides. “I drove 10 minutes to avoid a roundabout,” says one. “I wish I never had to stop for an intersection,” says the other. Some will blaze through at 35 mph, others will inch through at a breakneck five miles per hour, and both of those are just as bad for everyone. In the background, a third just continually drives around the roundabout, never exiting. 

Nobody knows what they’re doing, honestly. There are dozens of approaches, all of them taking some stance on the debate. While only some of them will be any type of extreme, a lot of them won’t be based in any real knowledge. Instead, they’ll be based in what people haven’t learned. More than that, they’re based in what people weren’t even taught. 

And so often, today’s politics are based on the same lack of knowledge. People don’t properly research, but jump to conclusions. They don’t fully understand a subject, but assume that their limited perspective is right. Right now in China, people talk about the civil unrest in one city but completely ignore the cultural genocide that is happening across the country. They take a stance against the protests, but forget the same ignorance that happened decades ago. 

Even on a local scale, politics are based in reaffirming the knowledge that’s already present. Voting for an official because of party, not of stances. Pushing away a drastic change without realizing that it’s only happening because the slow, continual change was brought to a halt for years. 

Everyone becomes so comfortable in what they’re used to that they forget that progress never stops, and that there will always be new solutions. Just because something was made better years ago doesn’t mean that it will always be better. Change will always be able to happen, new systems will always come in to place, and they should always be looked at with a critical eye.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, whether you prefer the classic four-way or the modern roundabout, whether you’re liberal or conservative, the biggest downfall in today’s disputes is that lack of understanding. As the ways to make it through an intersection change, it’s important to understand why those changes are made and the benefits — or detriments — that come with it. 

There’s never going to be a catch-all answer. 

No matter what, people will have their stances, but taking a step back and understanding what change people want and why they want it is the core of any democracy and any compromise.