Choices carry consequences. Some of those consequences can mark and affect our lives and the lives of those around us in ways we never imagined possible.
It is easy to choose among things that are not close to our skin. We can keep a distance and evaluate with clarity, our options. But the closer and more intimate things are to us, the more difficult our choice becomes as our sight becomes blurred and tinted by our biased emotions. We can lose objectivity and something else... our inner freedom.
On a national level, right now we are standing at a crossroads and are being called to make a decision about something that can feel very personal--the election or re-election of a president. This is a key decision that cannot be made lightly. Rather it requires soul-searching and a clear analysis of the issues and choices we face.
Choosing dispassionately is more easily said than done, because electing a president, can prove to be a highly passionate endeavor. Searching for the truth beneath appearances, remaining uninfluenced by mass thinking, and considering not just our personal but also our country's well-being, should demand a great deal of awareness and attentiveness on our part.
I am reminded of one of the first stories I learned at school, the story of King David. Like many Latin Americans, I was educated in a Catholic institution where ethics and morality were often taught through the telling of bible stories. This was one of my favorite times of the week because I loved stories, fables, and myths that carried a scent of the eternal and had teachings that were beyond time and place. They awoke in me a larger perspective and consciousness of relatedness, as they united past and present and wove my experience of the moment with the experiences of other lands, other languages, and other customs.
For me, two events in David's life stood out. The first was when as a young man David devised a way to defeat Goliath, a giant who was almost twice his size. Realizing the he had no chance against Goliath in hand-to-hand combat, David was able to bring the giant down from a distance with a rock that he threw from his sling. By stepping back and honestly assessing the circumstances before him, David was able to make the right decision on how to proceed.
The second event that had particular meaning for me was when David was blinded by passion and committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers. David then orchestrated the death of Bathsheba's husband by ordering the army to abandon him on the battlefield. Even though David repented and stayed in power, as a result of his actions, he lost the beloved son he fathered with Bathsheba and his people were plagued by wars and strife for many years.
Several times in the recent past, we have suffered from choices that were driven by strong emotions rather than clear-headed analysis. In some cases these decisions were made by our leaders without our participation and in other cases we, the people, sealed our own fate. The war on Iraq is a sad example of both cases. By the end of the first term of President G. W. Bush, it had already come to light that the initial decision to invade Iraq was made by our president despite the lack of any clear evidence that they were involved in the 9/11 attack, had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, or presented an imminent danger to the United States.
The electorate's decision to stay on a path that was misguided and unsupported by facts arose from a fog of unclarity. We, as a country, were quick to look at the events of the day through an emotional lens, open to the pro-war propaganda that was being furthered by certain leaders and members of the media. Another emotional element that influenced our decision was our fear of being attacked at home once again. In the process, many lost sight of the fact that we were endangering the lives of innocent Americans and Iraqis.
Over the past eight years of that war, close to 5,000 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives were lost, over 33,000 U.S. troops were wounded, and countless more have been scarred by extreme emotional distress. And, as usual, the majority of our military came from middle or working class families and minority groups--women, Latinos and blacks. Latinos were the minority represented in the greatest number.
In this election year, an assessment of the candidates' actions, the lives they have led, the good deeds they have done, and their decision making process may allow us to see through a clear lens and make a well-informed decision, similar to the way young David approached the task that fate presented him. If, however, we follow the loud voice of our own biased passions of the moment, or allow ourselves to be swayed by the barrage of rhetorical words and slanted opinions that are thrown at us every second, we are not likely to make a free decision. On the contrary, we may be blinded by whatever Bathsheba-like form our emotions and passions have taken.