“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Those words from four-time Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner Robert Frost offer an answer to one of history’s greatest challenges- the difficulty of choice. Is there always a choice? Well, Frost certainly thought so, albeit often challenging. If there are options, there are choices. Since there is always an option to take, there is indeed always
a choice to make.
This begs the question: Is every choice truly still a choice?
Consider “Sophie’s Choice.”
In the 1979 novel by author William Styron (later made into a 1982 Meryl Streep film of the same name) the tragic story is told about Sophie Zawistowski, a Polish immigrant survivor. She reveals her arrest by the Nazis during wartime, and that she was interred at Auschwitz, the deadliest of all the concentration camps.
On the night she arrives at the camp with her two children, a doctor at the camp tells her that she has a choice; allow both her children to be gassed or send one to the labor camps. Tragically, she sent her son Jan away,
and sent her daughter Eva to be murdered in the gas chambers. A most painful and horrible decision for any parent to make to be certain.
Did Sophie truly have a choice?
Take for another example, rapper and entrepreneur, Kanye West. Now known as simply “Ye,” His flamboyant actions, show-stopping stunts, sold-out concerts, and controversial statements have been the subject of many media buzz and major headlines since his career began in 1996. However, it was his interview with tabloid news outfit ‘TMZ’ in 2018 that represents one of his more unique signature moments.
During the broadcast, the rapper stated the following, according to one the nation’s leading news outlets ‘The Guardian’: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years,” he said. “For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You was there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all? It’s like we’re mentally in prison. I like the word prison because
slavery goes too direct to the idea of blacks. Slavery is to blacks as the Holocaust is to Jews. Prison is something that unites as one race, blacks and whites, that we’re the human race.”
In that same article, other artists met West’s comments with anger: “Fellow rapper Will.i.am told Good Morning Britain that West’s comments were “ignorant” and “broke my heart … when you’re a slaved, you’re owned…
that’s not choice, that’s by force.” Prominent civil rights activist Deray McKesson said West “continues to fuel the racist right-wing folks who believe that black people are responsible for their oppression,” while fellow activist and TV host Marc Lamont Hill wrote: “There has never been a moment in history when Black people didn’t resist slavery… Our resistance led to our freedom.”
Despite the comments standing vehemently against Ye’s, every statement must judged by its own merits.
Approximately 100,000 slaves escaped to freedom between 1619 and 1865. Though some of the escapes were mostly due in part to the aid of others (mostly former slaves themselves), they made the journey to freedom.
Without question the punishment would be severe for those caught making the trek, but whether others are willing to admit it or not, freedom was an option. Did slaves have a decision to make? Was slavery truly a choice?
Regardless of how painful and challenging the quandary before us may be, notwithstanding the weight of the repercussions, there is always a choice. Thus, the question becomes which choice will you make?