Independence Day 2014

Today the USA honors Independence Day, a holiday celebrated with food and fireworks and thoughts of those who died to grant us the freedoms we now enjoy as a nation. I’m always conflicted when it comes to this holiday, however, as it’s far too easy to memorialize war over peace, to value aggression over compassion in our quest to secure an outdated dependence on oil and other precious resources rather than to implement a worldwide model of sustainable living.

From the Cambridge Dictionary: Independent: Capable of thinking or acting for oneself.

I wonder how a nation of ‘rugged individuals’ has devolved into one in which its citizens seem to prefer a trancelike adherence to the status quo rather than realizing that democracy and freedom are both intrinsically linked to the participation of the citizenry, itself, of each and every one of us. Instead, many have bent to the corporate takeover of our country and greed supplants the largesse of spirit Americans have long been admired for.

We possess the resources, as one of the richest nations on earth, to advocate for the oppressed and downtrodden and to celebrate the amazing freedom of every citizen to develop their unique gifts and talents. Most all of us, save the Native Americans, remain descendants of immigrants. Instead of celebrating our growing diversity, however, many currently argue for closing the door on those we consider ‘outsiders.’

I don’t possess the answers, but I often ponder this quote, engraved below our own 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 tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

~ Emma Lazarus

 

 

6 comments on “Independence Day 2014”

  1. I have similar thoughts, views and questions, and wonder how things can be changed away from their sorry state.

    • Ben, yes. I, too, wonder about this. I’m going to respond a bit more at length to Shakti’s comment, below. You might find it addresses part of your query as well. Peace, and thanks.

  2. Dear Bela,

    Great post.

    As a Non-US World citizen, I have often wondered what does the US independence really stand for. Is it to celebrate the adoption of the declaration of the independence document? If so, can the declaration to move away from an association with Great Britain be construed as independence?

    I say this because America was really all about immigrants and settlers. And the true owners of the land had been the natives. As I look back, I feel some aspects of these original inhabitants whose land was forcibly taken away, their empowerment and well being,should also form a part of the Independence declaration.

    Your sentence, ” Instead of celebrating our growing diversity, however, many currently argue for closing the door on those we consider ‘outsiders” resonates. What is it that remains in the background of such an argument? To me , we think of pulling up the drawbridges only when we feel insecure. How could we shift ourselves out of this space of insecurity? How could we use our competences to select the arena to excel in?

    Regards

    Shakti

    • Shakti, as always I am grateful for your thoughtful response to one of my posts. Technically, Independence Day exists to celebrate the country’s independence from Britain, from the oppression of the monarchy. Yet too often it is skewed to the celebration of ‘those who died to protect our freedom,’ which translates to another way to value war over peace, along with Memorial Day (not at all to diminish the broken lives and earnest contributions of our veterans). Consider our national anthem’s ‘bombs bursting in air.’ Fireworks are the imitation of that process. And though I find them extraordinarily beautiful to observe – brings out a childlike wonder in me – I often boycott this celebration, in my own private way, to avoid being festive in any sense about war. The brutal realities of war are too harsh to contemplate for long, and those who support it endlessly in this country – and there are many – (and this addresses your ‘background’ question in the last part of your comment) – are afraid of anything ‘different,’ and so are quick to categorize, castigate, and ultimately, seek to eliminate. Somehow homogeneity has come to represent feelings of security, although to me, diversity is key – it sparks creativity, solutions and colors an otherwise dull landscape.

      Islam, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Immigrant, even – these are words that conjure fear in the hearts of many fundamentalist Christians, though Jesus himself must surely roll over in his proverbial grave at their interpretation of his teachings. It is fear that has always been the basis for attack throughout history. Fear of wild animals, which we now ‘save’ in zoos everywhere, as their habitats disappear from our precious earth. Fear of death, or harm which may result in one’s demise, translating to a primal fear of attack, fear of any threat to the status quo, whatever that might be. Our nation of ‘rugged individualists’ may well be termed a nation of Warriors.

      Now Warrior is an archetypal force, and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It provides incentive to change things, to advocate for the oppressed, for those marginalized by society. Yet when any archetypal force is developed to the exclusion of others, the scales are tipped and balance cannot easily be restored. The US is such a new nation in the scheme of the greater world at large! We have done fantastic things throughout history, yet I often say that looking to us for guidance is like looking to an adolescent – they can be brilliant, certainly they have great energy to draw from, but they also are flooded with hormones and have not yet learned the wisdom of their elders. In a general sense, they don’t much care to!

      To make things worse, our government has long sold out to corporate interests, to lobby groups – politics is rife with greed and corruption, as it is in so many governments throughout the world and throughout history – this is nothing new. Yet Democracy itself in its original Constitutional form is supposed to eliminate corruption. Now even our Bill of Rights has been tampered with in the interest of ‘protecting us from terrorists.’ In the process, we have become terrorists of a different sort. Invading another country with a public agenda to ‘eliminate the enemy’ while privately protecting resources we have come to depend upon (oil, oil, oil) that prop up a dying, non-sustainable model of energy is ludicrous and dangerous. Just because we ‘can’ does not mean we ‘should.’

      Even the best intentioned among us can become discouraged by this fact. Yet to end on a positive note, there are changes being made at the grass roots level, mostly because people are beginning to collectively awaken to the hard reality of global warming, and it’s about time. Many of us knew we were hitting a critical point in the ‘eighties, so the facts have been there for those whose eyes are open. I look forward to witnessing what brilliant ideas, coupled with the needed funding, will be hatched in light of this collective shift. I don’t harbor any illusions that we can reverse all the damage done – but I rejoice in any efforts to unite, in a non-aggressive way, in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems. My hope is that it helps more people recognize unity across borders, that we begin to value all life as sacred and that we, as human beings, begin to dissolve the Great Walls that separate us, one from another. Utopian, perhaps. But one can dream.

      As always, my best, Shakti – wishing you and yours peace and Aloha,
      Bela


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