Celebrating the 4th of July was a big event in my family when I was growing up. It was all very wholesome and Americana: Cousins, aunts, uncles, babies, kids, BBQ, hotdogs, bathing suits, games, and, of course, fireworks. Amazing memories that I am blest to have.
As a kid, however, I really did not understand what it was we were celebrating. Yes, I knew about the Declaration of Independence, George Washington, Paul Revere, the Minutemen, and Betsy Ross. I loved that part of our history. It was so exciting to think that people rebelled against a tyrannical government and secured freedom for its people. Let’s face it—it’s nice to be a part of the winning team.
What I did not understand until much later in life was this radical notion of freedom and how very unusual it was in the Western world at the time. Freedom to self-govern, freedom to worship however we wish, freedom to own property, freedom from undue governmental burdens, and so much more. As an adult, I am profoundly grateful for these freedoms, but I do believe we have miles to go before we have true freedom in this country or any country. These are the freedoms for which I still long:
- Freedom for my children to play outside, ride their bikes, and go to the mall without fear that someone will take them and defile and kill them.
- Freedom for me—a woman—to take a walk alone at night.
- Freedom for my nieces and nephews who are biracial to live without discrimination, hate, and vile epithets.
- Freedom for teachers to concentrate on curriculum, instruction, and meeting individual needs of students; thus, freedom from the anxiety of standardized tests.
- Freedom from taking off my shoes in airport security.
- Freedom from identity theft.
- Freedom to wear whatever clothing is customary for my culture and religion without mockery or stares or worse.
- Freedom of schools and teachers to focus on instruction instead of how to “shelter in place” in the event a madman with a gun infiltrates the campus.
- Freedom for a young woman to go to a bar or fraternity party without the fear that someone will drug their drink or rape them.
- Freedom from white hoods and burning crosses.
- Freedom from concealed weapons.
I know that each of you could add to this list, and I encourage you to do so. I understand that most of these freedoms will probably never exist while we are here on Earth. Mankind is flawed, and the reality is that humans have always done horrible things to their fellow humans. This is not utopia. This is not heaven. However, if we could eliminate even a portion of these problems, we would be continuing the work that we celebrate today. In a way, the list of freedoms I present is my own Declaration of Independence.