Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Walking Dead: Live or Die in "18 Miles Out"

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “18 Miles Out,” had at its center the choice we make to live or die when faced with extraordinarily difficult circumstances. If you lived in a world where there were more zombies than live human beings, would you continue to fight for some sort of life or would you give up and welcome death?

I just finished reading The Giver with my eighth graders. If you haven’t read it—don’t worry—we’re beginning to live it. It’s the world of Sameness. Everyone lives in the same kind of dwelling. There is no upper, middle, or lower class. The government chooses your job for you. The government feeds you. The government chooses your spouse for you and provides children for you via “birth mothers”—surrogates who are impregnated three times in three years and then become laborers. (I enjoy the irony in that every time I read it.)

No one wants for anything because the government provides it all. No one has to think for himself or herself. There is no creativity. There is no color. There is no music. No one minds because it’s been like that for so long that the only person who remembers anything different is The Giver.

The government also decides when you’ve outlived your usefulness, when you’ve become a burden on society, and they “release” you from the community. They put a syringe in your arm and kill you. Anybody remember Obama’s statement when he was campaigning about giving Grandma a pill when she’s diagnosed with a terminal disease?

It’s a horrible world in The Giver when contrasted with the world we still have—the world where we can educate ourselves, choose our own paths, get up off our own asses and make our own lives. My eighth graders still recognize that the world of choice and personal freedoms is a better place to live than the community of Sameness in the world of The Giver.

When we finished the book, one of my students asked me if I would “apply for release” if I lived in The Giver’s world. (The community members can do this; they don’t know they’ll be killed.) Would it be better to die than to live in such a world?

I think in both instances I’d choose life. I’d believe that somehow, someway, we’d make a life and the zombies would eventually really and truly die. We’d be able to start over.

I think if I lived in The Giver’s community and I knew the difference between Sameness and a world of personal freedoms, I’d fight against a government that denied me the life I have now.

In fact, that’s what I’m doing.

Cherish the choices you have. Guard them. The government does not know better than you what is best for you. You do not need them to take care of you. You are not entitled to a better life simply because you’re living and breathing. You’re entitled to the best life you can carve out for yourself. And you’re living in the best country in the world to make the best life for yourself because of the Constitution of the United States.

Don't choose the easy way out.

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