Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Freedom Rings

Last night we went to see Symphony on the Prairie, a family tradition on the Fourth of July. But last night was different--strange, somehow. Perhaps it's because of the massive and pervasive conflict of feelings about the U.S. involvement in Iraq, the administration, and our general sense of agency and responsibility as a nation, but the flag-waving, banner-raising, red-white-and-blueishness of last night (plus the fact that 12,000 people stood almost in unison and sang, "God Bless the USA") was more disturbing to me than inspiring. It was almost like a panicked sense of denial--maybe the more unsure we are, the louder we sing.

Today I decided to go read the Declaration of Independence for myself. I believe that this country is founded on the right stuff. I also think it's a complex (and wonderful) thing when these principles are able to flow through and sustain millions and millions of people (and hopes and dreams and aspirations and good works). Jefferson said that a government is created and exists, "by the consent of the governed," to secure the rights of each individual to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. He also wrote that it was our duty to change a system of government that does not protect those rights or work for our Safety and Happiness. (I love it that those key words are capitalized in the document.)

I thought about what freedom means--freedom from bondage, from unfairness, from abuses, from exploitation, from judgment and violence. Freedom from prejudice, from unfair laws and taxes, from being at the mercy of a despot's rule, from the withholding of a sense of justice and protection. Jefferson felt freedom meant Life, Liberty, Happiness, and Safety. Interesting that in the closing paragraph of the Declaration, the representatives declared that these colonies were already free, with all the rights afforded independent states. They weren't asking anyone; they weren't threatening war; they weren't waiting to see what would happen--they were claiming what was already theirs (and ours): The unalienable right to live a free life, trying to find and bring our own measure of good to the world.

May the next year in the life of our nation and our world bring about a fuller realization of that natural, existing truth for everyone.


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