The uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East seem to all have that theme: Leaders who are holding their power in perpetuity and not giving their people the choice of who leads them. It has become the rallying point for the uprisings – the desire for choice in leadership and life. I think that’s one of the reasons that so many Americans are apathetic about politics – there are many of us who have never had to worry about choosing our political leaders – we always do every 2, 4, or 6 years and we know that right isn’t going anywhere no matter how we choose to vote. It’s not about picking the “right” or “wrong” candidate, it’s about being able to choose for yourself who you think should be put in that leadership position.
Religion is another example of how the freedom of choice makes a difference. My oldest daughter is doing a report on her ancestry and we’re trying to tell her about why our ancestors from Europe would have come to America to live – it was the “Land of Opportunity” with the freedom of religion that they weren’t getting at home and the potential to obtain land or jobs that they didn’t think they could get in their home countries.
One of the continuing “hot button” topics is abortion and the right to choose. I’m pro-choice, but it doesn’t mean I will ever choose to have an abortion myself – it means I believe that I should be able to make that choice for myself and have more than one safe, legal path that I can take with my own body. The decision of Roe v. Wade made a huge difference in the lives of many people just by giving women a choice. This choice factor stands out to me since I just finished “Freakonomics” – they spell out how just having abortion legalized helped the crime rate because the kids who would have gone on to commit crimes weren’t born into homes that didn’t want them or couldn’t support them – a major indicator of future crime potential. Just having it has a valid option makes a difference for a lot of women since thinking about terminating the pregnancy versus keeping the baby makes them realize how much they really do want the baby.
What gets me on the abortion topic is how there are groups that are trying to take away that choice for others. I realize that there are majority opinions that change over time – with respect to slavery, women’s voting, if a Catholic is qualified be President, that the Earth revolves around the Sun – that seem obvious to us now, but weren’t always so clear. Do these groups realize that their oppression is what drove their ancestors to come to the United States in the first place? They just wanted the opportunity to choose for themselves. And now there are people who are trying to limit the choices of others due to their religious beliefs. You have the freedom to practice your religion and I have the freedom to practice mine or none at all. Forcing a woman to have an ultrasound before being allowed to have an abortion is cruel and unusual. Women know what’s going on – we know that it is a potential human life, but please let us make that choice. I don’t see paid maternity leave in the U.S. like in other countries, I don’t see universal health care, or any number of other programs that make it economically feasible to have children. Yes, those women didn’t “choose” to abstain or “choose” to use more than one method of contraception, but that doesn’t mean that they are deferring all future decisions to someone else.
If we keep allowing people to make their own choices for themselves within the framework of a civilization (i.e. I can’t choose to make your choices for you), I think the world as a whole will be a better place. Live and let live.
P.S. Children love choices as much as bigger humans do - the easiest way to get a kid to do something is to give them a choice, even if both choices lead to them doing what you would like them to do (i.e. go potty before getting the car, or getting their shoes on before going out the door). But eventually kids have to come up with their own choices and their own decisions since that's what we expect of successful adults. Choices are important to humans and we shouldn't try to limit them if they don't harm anyone but the chooser.