As you read this, you may or may not have already voted. Perhaps you do not plan to vote at all. I spoke to two people last night that unplugged their phones over the weekend having been so inundated with pleas to vote this way or that. Such is the price of living in a democracy. I admit that as the first Tuesday in any even-year November draws close I start understanding the appeal of dictatorships, with their on-time trains and mono-candidate elections. Making up your mind is such a bother, particularly with everyone shouting contradictions in your ear.
But democracies provide great cyclical life lessons. After all, what is all your life but a choice? Toast or cereal for breakfast? Regular or decaf? Private schools or public schools? Counseling or divorce? And as writers, what do we do every day when we face the blank page but choose? Is not every single word a choice? Must we not stand alone in the voting booth of the English language and choose our favorite candidate over and over and over?
The difference between these choices and those on the ballot is most are made entirely in the quiet of your own head. With the exception of the odd spouse, friend, parent, or advisor, your choices are made without the cacophony of begging and warning that is the election campaign. As much as I wince when the ads come on, I have sympathy for the folks behind them. Every candidate knows, deep down in their all-too human heart, that every voter is completely and unreachably free. You can scare them, cajole them, bribe them, even threaten them, and yet in the end everyone makes up their mind about absolutely everything. It is the deal we accepted when we were born.
We don’t always want this deal. Free choice remains the most dizzying responsibility bequeathed to humans. Adulthood is about accepting the freedom you claimed to lack as a child. Yet the choices are so many, and the outcomes so unknown, that the temptation is great to choose nothing. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a non-choice. Choosing not to choose is a choice. Governments are elected whether you vote or not just as your life unfolds whether you guide it or not. Make your choices consciously; there is no right or wrong, only consequences that in turn beget more choices that in turn beget more consequences. The stream of life forever pulls you forward, whether you choose to take the rudder or not.
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