During this Fourth of July holiday weekend, I’m ruminating on what it means to be independent and free, values deeply rooted in American history and culture. To me, independence is the ability to live unfettered by external control or influence. Freedom is the ability to live free from oppression or restraint. Both understandings make sense in the historical context of English colonialism.
But, as increasingly reckless behavior during the pandemic demonstrates (and I used to live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama!), the ideas of independence and freedom have become twisted and bastardized into something dangerous. People won’t wear masks. People won’t practice social distancing. People pulling guns on peaceful protesters. States re-open too soon. The lack of regard of others and the common good in the name of liberty scares me.
It also calls to mind the following quotation from Thurgood Marshall, the former U.S. lawyer, civil rights activist, and Supreme Court Justice:
“We must dissent from the fear, the hatred, and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that buried its head in the sand waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education, or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and timeless absence of moral leadership. We must dissent, because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”
Independence and freedom do not mean we get to do whatever we want to do and only look out for number one. Our collective responsibility, rather, is the exact opposite of that: to resist tyranny, to dissent to wrongdoing, to unite in solidarity during crisis. Only when we unite and work together will be be truly independent and free.
What do independence and freedom mean to you? How can we do better?
Merci for reading and please subscribe and share!
À votre santé,