Thursday is Independence Day, and I have been thinking about what that term might mean to different people.
Of course for most of us it means fireworks and cook outs, but what about those who have their own meaning? To the battered and abused spouse, Independence Day is when he/she is finally free from their abuser and can start living a life free from fear. To the recent college graduate who finally has a "real" job, Independence Day is when they can move into their own place. To the abused child living with an alcoholic or drug addicted parent, Independence Day comes when the child is finally taken to safety and the parent receives needed help.
To the individual living on welfare, Independence Day comes when they can cash a paycheck or use a debit card that they have actually earned. Yep, Independence Day means different things to different people. Of course, back in 1776 when the colonies claimed independence from England there was jubilation and celebration, and the United States of America was formed, to those at that time it meant freedom!
As I think about this historic event and the subsequent holiday, I am grateful for all of those who fought for my freedom. Sadly, however, those who can only find fault with our country continue to disappoint me. Recently I had a posting on my Facebook page asking the rhetorical question, "Why do I live in America" only to be followed by a rant about what they see is wrong with our country, how we are being "governed by white men" and how horrible things are. How very sad! This individual's father fought in World War II for her freedom to disparage the United States of America. He saw his fellow soldiers die, he, along with thousands of others who put their lives on the line was proud to be an American and to fight for the freedom each of us Americans enjoy today. I wonder what he and others who have fought, suffered and even died for our right to celebrate this day might be thinking of the question, "Why do I live in America?"
America is the envy of other countries across the globe because of the freedoms we Americans have. We are able to celebrate the freedom that our country represents not just every year on Independence Day, but every day we live here! We are free to practice the religion of our choice, free to live where we choose to live, free to pursue our chosen profession, free to have our children educated in public schools, free to vote for the candidate of our choice for elected office, free to speak our minds openly and to join in protests for or against change. And as a result of the recent ruling of the Supreme Court, free to marry the partner of their choice in state's where it has been legalized.
In short, our country, the United States of America, will celebrate a true democracy Thursday! Independence Day! We will celebrate our freedom; freedoms that many people living in far too many countries around the world do not share.
It is true that America is not perfect; we still have a long way to go. There is still a disproportionate balance of racial and gender equality among our elected officials, there are still biases that exist, and there is certainly crime that goes on daily, and there is no doubt that many of us continue to make mistakes, but this is still the country that most who share this planet with us would prefer to be a part of. In spite of it all, the good, the bad and even the ugly, we are still free to make critical decisions as to how we live our lives and make choices based on what we believe in.
In America we can speak out whether we agree or not with the current policies and decisions that come from the White House, the Supreme Court or our local City hall, the way to change those policies/laws is clear; in America we have the freedom to let our elected officials know how we feel, join a group of individuals who feel similarly and march, protest and demand change, or vote out the ones we don't like and vote in the ones we do. Or, better yet, we are free to run for elected office ourselves! Amazingly, we even have the right to bash the country that has given us the freedoms that we enjoy but should we? How dare we forget that the freedoms we have today came at a price. How dare we forget that men and women died for the democracy in which we live and the freedoms we enjoy? To these men and women we should say thanks and let them know that their efforts helped to keep the words of Francis Scott Key as meaningful today as they were when he first wrote them . "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave"
And finally, if you don't like it in America you are free to leave and move to another country of your choosing.
Have a great day.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org