- Insecurity doesn’t stop with writers these days. We have an election coming up. My entire country is insecure.
When I was a kid, a new series of books came out that rocked my tweenage world. Instead of listening passively to the story told to me, the books let me have a say in how the tale continued. The stories were written in second person, putting me in the role of the protagonist. At the end of a couple of pages of story, each book asked a question, and offered me two or three options about how to proceed. You see a door. What do you do? If you open the door, go to page 5. If you keep walking, go to page 10. I ate these stories up. I got a say in the action. Plus, if I didn’t like how it turned out, I could go back and try the other one.
A decade later, I sat in a college classroom and heard my Economics teacher tell us that the marketplace balanced out prices by the choices people made. If one thing costs too much, consumers buy something else. One student asked the question on everyone’s mind: what about things you have to buy? What happens when you don’t have a choice? The professor turned to us and said, “You always have a choice.” We argued, of course. (It was college. It was expected.) You have to buy food. You can’t buy furniture instead. “But you don’t go to the store and buy a pound of food,” he said. “You buy apples, or bananas, or oranges. If one thing is too expensive, you can buy something else. You always have a choice.”
A few years after that, my therapist echoed the point, every time I said I had no choice. “You always have a choice.”
In a lot of mystery series that I watch, the killer ends up at that same helpless juncture, explaining to the detective or the person whose life they’re about to take that they had no choice, they had to do this. Of course you had another choice, we the audience want to say. You could NOT pull the trigger. You could leave the poison in the bottle. You could drive around a corner instead of plowing into them.
It’s one of the times when the human brain is almost too efficient. It isn’t that it doesn’t recognize the choices. It’s that it cycles through them so quickly, the undesirable ones are tossed out with such efficiency, we convince ourselves they don’t exist.
Here’s an example. My child broke her arm, I have to drive her to the hospital.
Of course. You have no choice, right? Wrong. Your brain has already flipped through
Scenario 1) I don’t take her to the hospital, she continues to hurt, her arm never heals properly. Outcome: unacceptable.
Scenario 2) I call an ambulance to get her, they can’t do a lot for her on the spot, it takes longer to get her to the hospital because I have to call 911 and wait for the ambulance to get here and the hospital’s only half a mile away, I end up with a huge bill from the ambulance company. Outcome: undesirable.
to arrive at
Scenario 3) I get her into the car and drive as fast as I can to the hospital, the ER staff gets her the attention she needs, I don’t have to explain why she doesn’t get a birthday party because she spent five minutes in an ambulance. Outcome: best possible under the circumstances.
Why would you bother recognizing obviously lesser choices? Because knowing we have choices, even when we don’t like them, reminds us that we have power. You might not be able to set your daughter’s arm yourself or go back in time five minutes to make sure it never gets broken, but you do have a choice in how to deal with what’s happened, and you selected the one with the biggest payoff for the least payout. It’s something to remember when your brain choruses “My child got hurt, I am a failure as a parent” over and over again. No, you’re not. Something bad happened, and you took care of it in the fastest, most effective way possible.
Our nation has an election coming up, and several people have mentioned to me that they don’t like any of the choices. I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s comment: “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” With the presidential election, you can only take your pick of the people who asked for the job. That is a circumstance. But there are other choices in this election that need making. If the choices at the top of the ballot don’t thrill you, maybe it’s time to take a look at the other decisions you will be asked to make. One school of thought says that the choice of president actually has much less effect on your immediate life than the choice of city officials and state propositions. The judge who decided that Brock Turner’s swimming career outweighed his victim’s right to decide whether or not her body was invaded by someone without her permission was elected. Which judge are you voting for? Is their record any better than that guy’s? After the election is over, our job isn’t done. The internet has made public opinion a more valuable tool than ever. We need to keep tabs on what decisions our elected officials are making, and let them know when we approve and disapprove. I hear tell that a hand-written note to a politician still attracts more attention that anything electronic, but emails from enough people or signatures on petitions are a lot better than getting angry and not saying anything.
If, like me, you find the rest of that ballot daunting and want to make informed choices, here are some links to try for well-organized information:
If you’ve found other good resources, please share them in the comments. We can use as many as possible.
Remember, you have choices. You can vote for people, you can select yes or no on proposition issues, you can register opinions about the effectiveness of the people elected and propositions passed.
After you remember that, go hug a friend or pet a cat or dog. You’ve probably already made some good choices about who shares your life. Capitalize on those choices right now.
Kimberly elects to choose her own adventure.