My entire little body was gyrating with anticipation as I stared down the street lined with people. Moments passed, folks milled around, and then suddenly I thought I heard something, so again I looked down the street and there it was in the distance…the local VFW Color Guard marching our way! Immediately everyone around me stood up, placed their hand over heart and then became respectfully quiet as the soldiers marched by with the American flag.
4th of July in my childhood was a big deal. There was a parade, the carnival came to town, there was a “huge” firework show and the evening always ended with a dance for the high school students. Amidst all the fun and frivolity my parents were clear what this day was all about: American independence, the subsequent freedoms that we enjoyed and most importantly the ultimate sacrifice so many made that secured both of those.
Today freedom for many has taken on – I would suggest – an exaggerated and ill informed understanding from its original roots in our country. Individuals fought for freedom from subjugation of others, freedom from religious oppression, freedom from economic injustice. What we know now is that much of the freedom that many enjoyed came with its own subjugation, oppression, and injustice to countless indigenous and enslaved people.
In my experience, freedom today for many is understood, dare I say expected, that one should be able to do whatever one wants to do. Actually, freedom at its core is about getting the opportunity to have some level of choice in context. Freedom does not happen in an autonomous vacuum. Freedom does not mean I am not responsible and accountable for the impact my actions and choices have on others.
As a wise elder once said to me, “Yes, you have free will. But how you use it will impact everything. True freedom is living into the fullness of who we are created to be in a way that encourages, affirms and supports others to do like wise.”
“I think ultimately what we’re all truly searching for is freedom. A sense of liberty that comes from self-awareness and also from letting go. When we have the courage to let go of the many things that weigh us down, hanging on only to the knowledge that we are loved, then we are free.” Anonymous