Right in the Centre - Making Choices


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

In just about every graduation ceremonies speech the distinguished guest speaker encourages the students to “follow your dream” and “you can be anything you want to be”. There is some wisdom and truth in both those admonishments but there needs to be discernment. On my graduation day there was no ceremony or speeches but had I been encouraged that I could be anything I wanted to be it would have been foolish to take it at face value.

For example, no matter how much I might have wanted to be an Olympic pole vaulter, with my height and stocky build it was never going to happen. At one time, I wanted to be boxer but that notion ended in Grade 8 or 9 when a fellow student punched me so hard that I likely, in retrospect, suffered a concussion. Alvin Solinski, where are you now?

I thought maybe I could be a United Church minister and there was some provision being put into place by the local minister to make that happen. I might have been able to do that task but my mother said I didn’t have the patience for the calling. Given how difficult the church’s path has been over the past forty years, she was likely right. Had I had to face the twisting and turning that has beset the churches, including the United Church, instead of ministering, I might have taken up the boxing option on occasion.

It is good to follow your dream but no, you can’t always “be what you want to be.”

One of the major changes that has taken place since my decades ago graduation is the way the meaning of words has evolved and not always for the better. I find it annoying that gay has come to mean homosexual. I fail to see the connection between gay and homosexual but it’s unlikely that my opinion on that or any other issue matters a lot. What does matter is that the English speaking world is so divided on almost every issue. Just by mentioning the word “gay” I run the risk of making people angry with me or with each other. Anger is the wrong reaction. Informed discussion should be the correct reaction whenever possible. In every case, there should be a willingness to agree to disagree and not to disagree in a disagreeable (read nasty) fashion.

Just as an aside about words, I filled out a survey last week that was required of me in my work. Two questions I objected to (my age and gender) seemed to be silly. My age has nothing to do with my opinion and my age is nobody’s business. The gender thing is also nobody’s business. Both questions were of no value to the survey and of no value the discussion of any issue.

The United States is being torn apart by the abortion issue. Here again, the meaning of words is being twisted and distorted. Pro-choice is supposed to mean that a woman has the right to an abortion. There needs to be a different word as while a woman may want, need or have the choice to seek and abortion, the baby never gets a choice. Abortion results in death to the baby, no choice involved. 

Pro-life needs examination as well. A person can be as opposed to abortion as they wish to be but I have rolled this issue around in my mind for many years and always come to the same conclusion. There are cases where abortion may be the only way to save a pregnant woman’s life. I can attest to that from our own family history. Also, few rational people will insist that a rape or incest victim should have to carry a pregnancy. If someone can find a better explanation, I would be happy to hear it and publish it if the writer is willing.

We have many choices and opportunities. We have many rights. One wise friend says we need to have the Bill of Rights (brought in by Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker) but it should be titled the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. The 1982 version, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,(brought in by Liberal prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau) also failed to address the “Responsibilities” part.

Yes, we have many rights but unless we handle them responsibly, the grasping for rights quickly dissolves into chaos. Out of chaos comes anarchy and if you listen to the misuse of words, rights, freedoms and responsibilities swirling about today, anarchy may not be far away.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.