May 26, 2010
Our choices define our destiny, and our freedom to make them is our most valued resource. Where would we be today if we couldn’t make choices? Imagine if the Founding Fathers had not made their choice to break away from Great Britain? Since the beginning of mankind, we have made choices. We choose to improve ourselves or not; we choose to fight or make peace; we choose to lie or tell the truth. Choices we make everyday can have far-reaching consequences. Do I buy this healthier but more expensive food, or do I buy cheap, fast food? Years from making that decision, you may end up in debt, bankrupt or stricken with diabetes. Our choices shape us and the world around us in unimaginable ways.
Freedom of choice helps us in a myriad of ways. In the United States, we shape the course of our country by using our freedom to vote and choose our leaders. We choose how we govern our lives and the rules we must live by through choosing politicians. Our leaders make choices themselves. They decide when to trade, when to go to war, when to act, and when to wait. Millions have been killed through the decisions of our leaders and simultaneously millions have been saved. Millions of people were killed in World War I, all started by an assassin’s single bullet. After this world-altering shot, national figures around the world honored old and fading alliances and soon all of Europe was entangled in this web of loyalty and treachery. Armies entrenched themselves and the fighting didn’t stop. Millions died by bullets and disease. A decade later, the Great Depression struck America, sending many Americans into the gaping maw of poverty. The heroic actions and policies of Franklin Roosevelt snatched America from devastation and America rocketed ever higher.
We choose our own religion. We are all different people, and we can believe all different things. The diversity of religions in the world allows for incredible things. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel to honor his belief in Christianity, and Buddha made his seven-fold path the core of Buddhism thus creating a legacy of belief in non-violence. Many Far-Eastern religions use meditation to calm the mind allowing their followers to solve great problems and attain peace. All of this would not have been allowed to happen if we could not choose what we believe.
We shape our own ethics. Not everyone has the same view of right or wrong. We can choose how we wish to act and treat others. Our entire political system is based on differing ethics and points of view. Imagine if there were no Democrats and no Republicans; no Green Party and no Labor Party. Imagine if we all thought the same way about abortion and taxes. Imagine if we couldn’t choose what to support and what to oppose.
Sometimes, however, people and governments believe that it is not good to let people make their own choices. They think that if someone decides for the people and prevents them from having freedom then there will be less conflict. This phenomenon has a name—persecution. Religious persecution and political persecution all come from the stripping of one’s freedom to choose.
One’s freedom of information can be restricted. In China, searching Google for Tiananmen Square does not reveal pictures of brave protest. Instead, the Chinese government has replaced these pictures with those of smiling, happy Chinese people. The Chinese government restricts all news and internet coverage. All websites in China must be approved by the government or else they are censored. Done. No questions. You have no choice.
Also, one’s freedom of religion can be persecuted. In France during the 17th century, the Huguenots were driven from their homes and burned alive at the stake because the French government in power did not agree with their views; and rather than tolerate them, they simply eradicated them. In Salem, Massachusetts, women were killed en masse because of widespread paranoia about witches. Instead of letting these people choose their own religion, they forced them to comply with their own. Wouldn’t it have been better if these women had just been left alone?
Finally, one’s social freedoms can be tarnished. Only eighty years ago, women did not have the right to vote or even to own property in the United States. Talk about having no choice in the matter! In some countries today, women still do not have basic rights to education or the right to vote and own property. Nations and societies suffer as a result of this atrocity. Only a few decades ago, many African-Americans didn’t have simple freedoms. They couldn’t even drink from the same water fountains as whites! Societies that tarnish their own peoples’ social freedoms do nothing but harm themselves.
Imagine a world where you have no choice. You must wake up at 6 o’ clock in the morning, and you must eat a breakfast of toast and cereal. You must eat your breakfast in 30 minutes, and then you must dress in a black suit and red tie. You must walk down the stairs and take the subway to work. You must work for five hours and you may not even think about anything else. You have 15 minutes to eat lunch, and then you must work again. Finally, at the end of the day you must take the subway home. You must then eat fish with fruit and asparagus. Then at 9 o’clock you must go to sleep. Everyone must perform his or her task with mechanical zeal. Any deviation is punished. You are watched everywhere you go, and there is not even a thought of independent choice. This is a world without choices. Is that what you want?

However, some would say that each individual person does not know what is best for them. Consequently, they think that aspects of a person’s life should be controlled in order to better protect and benefit them. I think that is ridiculous. Sure, someone might not know what is best for them, but to think that someone else equally fallible that knows nothing of their life is better equipped to decide what someone should do is ridiculous! What would have happened if Thomas Edison, instead of being a brilliant inventor, had been assigned to a sweatshop factory by someone behind a desk that never knew him? Disaster would have happened. A complete failure of our society could have been the result.
To let others assume control of our choices and us is a terrible thing. To stand idly by while others make our decisions for us is akin to neutrality while a murder is occurring. Our choices and our freedoms are incredibly important for our and everyone’s survival. Our choices are what make us different; what make us great. We need to protect our choices; to treasure them for all time to come.

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