“At a recent public hearing before the vote, some Bloomington residents wept as they begged the city
to let them choose their own garbage hauler.” (Karen Zamora, Minneapolis StarTribune July 27, 2015)
I read this sentence twice. Then I double-checked to make sure the journalist wasn’t one of the terrific
satirical columnists who write for our local paper. Zamora answered my question as I read the sentence,
thinking ---really??? They cried about who would haul their garbage? One of the garbage haulers explained,
“People like to choose things that they can choose.”
This debate cum weeping took place the same week the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the
health care law and gay marriage. It was the same week that three terrorist attacks were perpetrated around
the world. And this was the week of continuing funerals in South Carolina for those murdered at their Bible
As we enter the Fourth of July weekend, it seems appropriate to consider freedom of choice. Which choices are worth
fighting for? It seems that the right to health care and the right to marry whomever one loves fit in that category. I
would cry if I were denied health care coverage or if I were unable to marry the person I loved. Certainly, the American
colonials who took up arms against the British were fighting against a perceived tyranny which they documented in the
Declaration of Independence.
We Americans have lived under the Constitution since 1787. Perhaps we have forgotten that not every crossroads presents
a life changing choice. Of course, we’d like our city government to be responsive to our needs but what happens when our
needs conflict with someone else’s? In some countries, they are lucky to even have garbage haulers.
No matter how many times I talk about Jewish Luck with groups or individuals, I am moved by how many basic freedoms and
choices were denied to Vera and Alla. In the 1970s in the USSR Vera wanted to be an interpreter and Alla wanted to be a veterinarian.
Their desires were irrelevant and they were precluded from studying at the best university by dint of their Jewish identity. Their
memories include countless examples of suppression of choice and freedom—limits to what they could read, what music they could
listen to, what they could say, where they could travel outside their residence permits.
Many parents assume that their children will have choices as they finish high school and prepare to enter the work force. What parent
assumes that the government will stop his or her child from becoming a doctor or a social worker or an astrophysicist? Even in the
earliest days of the Republic, Americans cherished the idea that children could outstrip their parents, that Americans had the freedom
to pick up stakes and move, that class did not limit opportunity. Of course, it took a far longer time for non white Americans and
women to be included in the vision. Those were issues worth crying and fighting for.
On this Independence Day, I cherish my freedom of choice. But I also pledge to try and distinguish which of those choices are indeed
worthy of sweat and tears.