Across the Universe: We shouldn’t limit the ability to choose |

Across the Universe: We shouldn’t limit the ability to choose

Quite some time ago, I renamed this column “Across the Universe” because, on top of my affinity for John Lennon and the Beatles (best band ever, IMO), I like to cover many different topics in this opinion space.

Sometimes, I cover the fun and free aspects of living. After all, where would we be as a society if we just worried and complained all the time about politics and development proposals?

Regardless, life isn’t just a big bouquet of roses, either. As Forrest Gump so famously quipped: “… life was like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gonna get.”

By the way, fun fact: Gump’s line is adapted from the 1987 book “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami, which also is the title of a 1965 Beatles song — mainly written by Lennon. Go figure.

Anyway, I’m a pro-choice person. In the past, I’ve written about this belief in terms of abortion, “gay” versus “straight” marriage, and other polarizing issues that I feel should never be political in the first place.

A couple recent things nationally and locally brought this belief to the forefront again for me.

The first is the “news” that broke a handful of days ago that Bruce Jenner had come out as a trans woman. Jenner, famously know for his gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics — and likely more for being the step-father of the Kardashian clan — is being celebrated by many for his decision to make his lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria public.

I can’t applaud Jenner enough for his choice to speak out. He (Jenner still wants to be referred to as a “he” until his gender transition is complete) took a chance and put a face to a “taboo” subject, and hopefully he will inspire others who are scared to speak freely about who they are.

Unfortunately, there are others who lambaste Jenner and are using his choice to speak as a reason to denounce transgender and other “non-traditional” lifestyles, and some even choose hate-filled speech to forward their agendas.

While I label that as “unfortunate,” I also understand that it is their choice. I don’t agree with it, but I can’t let my disagreements take away from respecting those people for having beliefs.

For example, I eat meat, I eat dairy and I indulge in gluten. At the same time, I have friends who are gluten-free, others who are vegetarians, and still others who are vegan. Some choose what not to eat based purely on health reasons, while others choose based on points of animal cruelty and inhumane treatment.

Some may not agree with my choice to eat meat or eggs or milk, but at the same time, I value and respect their choice to live differently.

This brings me to California Senate Bill 277, which has been heartily debated across the state and locally, too, in these pages by way of a pair of guest columns in April.

The bill would require most California parents to vaccinate their children as a condition of enrolling them in private or public schools.

Anyone familiar with the issue of vaccines knows the arguments for and against are extremely loud and fiercely partisan.

Like debating the merits of climate change, you have a certain group of people who preach it, and a certain group who denounce it.

Here’s my view: Currently, California parents have the right to determine for themselves what is injected into their child’s body. That is a choice they can make.

I don’t agree with taking away that choice, because it limits the ability for people to have options.

I couldn’t care less if someone is for or against vaccines, just like I couldn’t care less if you eat meat or don’t. The fact the choice exists to lean one way or another, that’s what I care about.

I would find it ridiculous if there was a law that forced people to not eat meat — or, that they must eat meat, for that matter — so why would it make sense for SB 277?

Sure, we’re talking about different things here, just like one’s choice to talk about being transgender or not is also completely different.

But that’s the point — as soon as our choices are limited, the more slippery the slope becomes.

Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun; he may be reached for comment at

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