Henry Kissinger said, “The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.” Have our attempts to create a culture of personal freedom actually created a culture of personal confusion?
In a world where Caitlyn Jenner received awards for her strength and bravery, we have freed a lot of people from their personal prisons while at the same time, potentially confusing others. Maybe we have created too many options for people and instead of making them feel liberated, we have only made them feel confused.
When I was growing up, you never questioned whether you were a boy or a girl, you were what your secondary sexual characteristics indicated you were. Maybe there were people who were confused about their gender, but they didn’t consider changing it and seemed content living the life they were born into.
I keep thinking of preteens and teenagers who are often confused and troubled. Instead of crediting their strange behavior and emotional states to hormones, their changing bodies and peer pressure, imagine their parents sitting them down and asking them if they are sure about their gender identity. If they weren’t confused before, they certainly would be then.
Gender options translate into other aspects of today’s culture. A couple of generations ago, there were very clearly defined family roles for men and women. In most families, the men provided monetarily for their families while women stayed home and took care of the home and the children. Granted, there were men who preferred to be the lead parent and women who wanted to work outside the home and for those people, thank goodness things have changed.
But I doubt couples argued about who was going to clean and cook or bathe the children because those roles were defined, unlike today’s couples who have to create their own rules for how responsibilities will be shared. And consider divorce.
Certainly there are circumstances why people should get divorced, but for many people, we’ve made divorce too easy. Maybe if things were more traditional — you get married and stay married, working through whatever difficulties arise, instead of getting divorced when things are difficult, fewer people would be divorced.
It isn’t always about what makes you happy and makes you feel good. Sometimes life is just boring and messy. No one wants to unload the dishwasher or take out the trash, but it needs to be done. And work is called work because it is work.
Many people in today’s world think that they have to feel happy and fulfilled every moment. Imagine telling that to the men in World War I or World War II or the people who lived through the Great Depression.
We also have the option of deciding what race we identify as. Rachel Dolezal denounced her Caucasian parents, wore her hair in dreds or an afro, added an accent to her voice, and used her undergraduate portfolio of African-American Art to earn a full scholarship to predominantly black Howard University. She was also elected president of her local NAACP chapter and was very vocal in criticizing the country’s white power structure.
I am Caucasian, have always been Caucasian and will always be Caucasian. This shouldn’t define me, but I also can’t change it because it doesn’t feel right or is inconvenient.
All of these issues seem to be where our world is today. Who should decide how I feel about my body and my sexuality? And what if I don’t like what they decide? But is it more confusing having all the options we have?
That my dear, is the question. Personal freedom or personal confusion? Hmmm?
Laura Herrick has been a public-school teacher for 25 years. She has written a book on parenting and is now writing books for children. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.