Independence Day is when Americans celebrate freedom. This is especially important in today’s politically and socially divided society. Freedom was instilled in my youth. It was the day when the red, white, and blue of the American flag was front and center at family picnics and fireworks at Alliance’s Silver Park.
The land of the free and let freedom ring are common rallying points for Americans. As I grew older, I came to understand the definition of freedom in America is more complex. My 10,000-foot view of American freedom can be summed up as follows. Americans highly value freedom. Freedom has many dimensions. The definition of freedom varies by individual.
Here is a small sampling of freedoms that Americans enjoy: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, and freedom to marry. Each of these freedoms have varying interpretations. As much as Americans are united in freedom, they are equally divided by freedom.
Freedom in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the differing views of freedom. The freedom to wear or not wear a mask, the freedom to social distance or gather in large groups, the freedom from government overreach, and the freedom to vote are some freedoms where Americans are divided on the definition.
Americans strongly defend individual freedom, the freedom to do what I want to do. We enjoy a good bit of individual freedom, probably more than any other country. That is good. What many Americans fail to understand is that individual freedom goes together with freedom for all, the collective freedom of you, your family, your neighbors, and all Americans.
Freedom for all has always been a very American ideal. Wars were fought not just for individual freedom but for freedom for all., The 1964 Civil Rights Act assured freedom for Americans of all races, colors, religions, sexuality, and national origins. The US Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on same-sex marriage assured the freedom of marriage for all.
My hope is that on this Independence Day that Americans enjoy and celebrate their individual freedoms. This is also the day to celebrate freedom for all. Respecting the freedoms of others while celebrating your freedoms is what America is about. This is true for all people including those on the other side of your political or social divide.
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”William Faulkner
Happy Independence Day!