Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence in the Context of Interdependence

Most Americans will be watching the sky this evening. Multi-colored explosions will be set off in every state of our country today to commemorate our symbol of unity and our belief in the value of freedom. For some fortunate Americans this symbolism rings true, but it is still a bit of an oxymoron, isn't it? Unity for freedom? In order for us to stand up for our inalienable right to freedom, we must come together as a unit--we must co-mingle; we must stand as individuals comprising a group. Once an essential mass is reached, we are formidable.

But, as anyone who has tried living with others will tell you, the uniting part is difficult. The co-mingling transgression from independent individuals to co-dependent unit brings with it its own array of complexities.

So, who might the commemorative symbolism of freedom in its purest use of the term ring true for? Perhaps someone who is young, healthy, wealthy, single, and who has very little family--and the family he or she has must also be wealthy and mentally stable. So, like I said, this sense of the term 'freedom' will apply to only a few.

For the rest of us, we are commemorating freedom from a structure of government--because we have chosen a co-dependent way of government over a government with one symbolic leader who dictates our way of living. And by that, what is really meant by "way of living" is "our means to attaining education, wealth, and property and means to exercising religious faith." That's not so bad. In fact, for most of us, it is the best possible option--and so, we watch the skies tonight. We will barbecue and bring together our family members--we will stand next to possibly a thousand or more other individuals, crowding ourselves onto thick green patches of lawn so we can bend our heads upward and feel a a sense of awe.

And though I hate to put a damper on such a patriotic image, I must contemplate this co-dependency for a minute. Why young, healthy, wealthy and single with little family? Each layer of those identity markers symbolizes its own little orb of freedom . . . but, if you are older, you find yourself exercising fewer freedoms; unhealthy, well that's self-explanatory; poverty-stricken . . . you get the picture.

Let us again, on this day meant to commemorate not just our freedom from tyranny but the symbolic values of our county, think about the message inscribed on the base of our Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these — the homeless, tempest-tossed — to me;
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.

This is no longer the true message of our country, is it? Is this a symbolic belief we still hold dear? No.

The huddled masses that will cram themselves alongside one another this evening will look around them and will judge many of the people present there alongside them as foreigners. They may have been born here--their parents may have been born here, but to their fellow-man standing there it makes little difference if they too are "yearning to breathe free" because our country has become a land too full. We are no longer a Golden Door. We believe the homeless should seek refuge elsewhere . . . and if they have come to this country "tempest-tossed," they had better be carrying the proper documentation along with them.

But this is not only a statement of nationality. It is also a reflection about our nation's new-found inability to value individuality. It's true. It is sad, and it is true. We have states enacting laws requiring authorities to hunt out illegals. We have a candidate for governor openly telling people that if they want to live in his state, they need to speak his language. And now we are even attempting to enact laws that would send American-born citizens the message that if they are born here, but their parents do not have legal US citizenry-status then we will DENY them their own birthright citizenship.

And so, we return to the context of inter-dependence. The United States of America is supposed to stand for its name--a nation made up of states that are united in their commitment to the value of individual freedoms. In order to remain a united nation, a formidable unit, we must force ourselves to look up tonight and re-evaluate our commitment to the symbolism of the explosions within our own hearts. Do we still have it in us to look up and feel the sense of awe we are at liberty to feel?

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