With a feeling of freedom, unencumbered by or subservient to the imposed values of others, America declared its independence from Britain in 1776 and democracy was given a new meaning. That was more that 200 years ago and I believe – though we are far from perfect – we are still the greatest democracy in the world.
However, rather than enter into a polemic about American history, I’d like to stretch the metaphor beyond today’s 4th of July parades and all the celebratory hoopla. Rather – and perhaps because I grew up as a child of immigrants here in “the land of the free” – I wish to address the inherent need for every person to enjoy feelings of independence.
To be fully and emotionally healthy human beings, we need to be able to experience independence in our everyday lives: in school, in the workplace, in relationships between friends, husbands and wives, as well as those between family members.
Since none of us lives in a vacuum, we are responsible to others as well as to ourselves, and we are known to others by our deeds and the morals we uphold. In healthy, mature relationships, we give as much as we take and we consider the needs of others as well as those of our own without prejudice or judgement or with as little prejudice and judgment as is humanly possible.
In unhealthy relationships, one person (or one nation) is rigid – needing to see everything in black and white, believing there’s only one right way to resolve any and all conflicts – and, in so being, diminishes others, holding them victim in order to gain feelings of superiority and, ultimately, to feel in control.
However, in healthier situations, independence offers all people – whether born in the same or different countries, the same or different families – an equal opportunity to do what they want, when they want to do it, taking nothing away from the other, and finding times to come together, sharing freely and respectfully.
So, on this July 4th, my hope is that all nations at war and all people who are determined to destroy rather than to uphold the most decent aspects of democracy (including the ability to live independently with the wisdom to exist inter-dependently personally and collectively) are defeated by those of us who wish for mutual respect and consideration for all.
Is such a wish too idealistic? Probably! But where would we be if our founding fathers had not been idealistic and had not fought to uphold all that has brought us to where we are today? Despite all our problems, we still have so much for which to feel grateful!
I hope you are all enjoying this 4th of July weekend!