Strong Choice

Dear J-

It’s quieter today, as we settle in to the things we must do and dread the things we cannot. Okay? We’re good? I dunno. I’ve felt a bit disquieted since yesterday as on the one hand it’s no bad thing to mind your own business but on the other, all that we need for evil to succeed is to do nothing; I heard that guy (who was being ticketed yesterday) yelling and challenging the other passengers to a fight, and I think I understand where that grows out of — embarrassment and humiliation — but still, I stood by and looked the other way, which is what I had done in high school instead of wading in and breaking it up.

I consider the (admittedly fictional) Chris Chambers from the Stephen King novella The Body, who in a coda has passed on from this world, victim of the Good Samaritan intentions that urged him to make peace between two belligerents. Yes, it was none of my business, and sure, there was no reason to make it mine, either. All the same I would have felt better if I had said something more than, well, nothing. The breaks: you don’t want to know how much it costs, as part of the soul price, to walk away. What can you do in lieu of the right thing? Just do the right thing first and … I dunno. How can you advocate it, really, though?

I suppose I’m not by nature a confrontational person; I’d rather not, thank you, and it hasn’t always been the best advice, honestly. Kenny Rogers sang about the Coward of the County and I remember my dad telling me there were some important lessons here: you can only push a man so far, I guess before he can no longer honor the vows he made to his now-dead progenitor. The difference is really in the strength of choice: do you choose not to, or did you just not do it because that was the default? there’s an empowerment in making the choice, but there’s also the uncertainty of which one is the right choice, and you just won’t know unless you do choose, I suppose.

Mike

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