What is it about freedom that seems so American? What drives our pride in expressing the core of our individuality? What causes us to gather in community on picnic blankets and around charcoal grills from east to west on this 4th of July sharing what we have with friends and family alike? What is the spirit of Independence we celebrate today?
For me, being an American isn’t about fighting wars or securing boundaries: there has been too much revealed about the greed fueling our military endeavors or spiking our hatred through nationalism. I instead view freedom as an openness granted from one individual to another. Freedom to know ourselves so completely that we allow others their differences. It is about waving our flag in a sea of other flags, while all flap in the same changing wind.
America is built on honor, and although that weighty word might be hard to recognize in today’s Twitter insults and public crudeness of our current culture if we scratch the surface, return to our roots, we will find our forebears intended meaning. Once we do we will honor those who took up the early fight, honor those left behind to tend the fire, honor those who dared to resist, and honor those who speak of a saner tomorrow.
As we flip the veggie burgers and cheer the marching band we might remember how close tyranny resides or how easy it is to ignore the border babies in cages, how absently we step over the downtrodden, even how complacent we have become about clean air and fresh water. But today, as we line up along Main Street, all of us can remember civility, and salute those in uniform and service, regardless of origin or class or any other category.
Today we can remember to do more than hope. Or pray. Or electronically donate. Today we can actively listen and talk softly and build a future that is brave and bold and lasting. Today we can engage in a discourse that allows for freedom to exist, for each individual in this sparkling America. Today as you watch the sky blaze with fireworks keep your gaze on the heavens and dream us into a world where we can all find our place, our Independence Day.