Dependence Day

Today we celebrate our independence.

But our strength is in our dependence.

We depend on one another. We depend on our armed forces to keep us safe. We depend on family and friends for love, sanity and good times. We depend on employers and clients and customers for our paychecks and livelihood.

The loner is the great American archetype. Personal freedom, personal responsibility, personal choice seems to be our national mantra. It’s so often about me, myself and I. The consumerism that drives our capitalism is all about self.

But independence was only achieved by depending on one another. Freedom is not about selfish gain but what we can have and achieve together. Right now Iranians are flexing their democratic muscle by relying on one another. No man is an island.

I think the American way is helping one another, not selfishness. That’s how we have overcome each and every trial that has faced this country. United, willful cooperation is what has made us great. We have relied on each other and it has made all the difference. Even now as the economy crumbles we make it through by helping one another out, not circling the wagons and fending for ourselves.

Struggle is another American ideal. And we should remember that, because though today is our Independence Day, it was not a day of freedom for everyone. When it was first written, ‘that all men are created equal’ only applied to white men. Perhaps we should also remember other days when injustice ceased and freedom was granted in this country:

And there are many other examples throughout our history when our country extended freedom. I imagine there will be many more in the years to come (depending on your views, homosexuals or the unborn are examples of groups that might gain freedom in the future). It says something great about our country that a person who would not have been granted freedom in 1776 is our president today.

I say all this not to crap all over patriotism or this country for which we ought to be thankful. If anything, it makes me exceedingly proud.

I say this because this union was not perfect in 1776, and it’s not perfect today. We have made mistakes and we will continue to make mistakes. But that’s OK. We can change. It is our freedom that enables us to make changes and correct those injustices and make that more perfect union. Whitewashing our history and overlooking mistakes leads to blind nationalism that can be dangerous. It’s important to acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them and move forward. American history is full of that forward progress.

America’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. And we get there together.

Perhaps it’s worth looking to the closing words of the Declaration of Independence:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Right there in the declaration is a pledge of interdependence. We need one another to be free.

2 thoughts on “Dependence Day”

  1. One example of a freedom to come:
    The FACE Act (Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act) is a bill that was introduced a couple weeks ago to the Senate and House and it would allow children adopted by Americans to become American citizens as soon as the adoption is finalized in their birth country instead and enter the US as American citizen instead of as immigrants. It would also allow them all the rights of an American citizen and not be subject to immigration regulations.

  2. Kevin, your thoughts are timely for me personally. Facing homelessness and throughout all the troubles that the economy’S nosedive has wreaked in my own life and the lives of many close to me, I can still say that there is no where else I’d rather be, and no other country that has the freedoms that we, as Americans still have.

    My government has been, at times, criminal,–that may be the nature of power–but I can raise my voice and not be shot for it. Not have my satellite dish confiscated, or worry that I, or a member of my family will be ‘disappeared’–like what is happening right now in China, Iran and Honduras at the moment, among other places. We can raise our voices together and actually change things.

    I’ve always marveled at what a daring experiment America is in it’s diversity. Nowhere else on earth have so many different cultures, peoples, traditions, religions, all lived together. Nowhere. It’s easy for a country like Norway to have a stable and peaceful society–it’s a homogeneous country.

    But we have dared to be heterogeneous. And if we look at nature, it is the heterogeneous systems that grow and prosper, while the homogeneous ones eventually must diversify or become extinct.

    The USA is not perfect by a long shot. But we have made it our tradition to admit our mistakes, to force transparency even on the most powerful, and to correct our course.

    What you have spoken of represents the collective spirit of the people of the USA–governments come and go, but we are the ones who define our country. And we are not perfect either. But if one takes a longer view to look at the changes that we, as a people, make from generation to generation,
    there is an underlying theme that runs through to the very points that you make: We reach for truth and freedom by being united and THIS we will never give up.

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