Since childhood, my fourth of July traditions have included the regular BBQs, parades and fireworks. When I began literacy tutoring a few years ago, I developed a deeper appreciation for the specifics of the document the holiday celebrates, thanks to my students from Korea, Russia and Iran. Now I include a little history review and reflection on our unique, inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I’m doing a little extra celebrating this year, with the recent expansion of personal freedom and equity passed by SCOTUS. As a devout Christian, I’ve long been perplexed by the fight against marriage equality. The irony of using Scripture to define marriage has been glaring to me, outshone only by the greater irony of wanting government out of our personal lives, except to dictate with whom we may fall in love and call spouse.
Humans resist change. It’s uncomfortable to let go of our definitions, traditions, tokens. Those things we have affection for are especially challenging to relinquish. Our emotions cloud reality, making it difficult to see clearly. The more we love something, the harder it is to accept any alteration in its form or function. I know this too well, as I experience angst and disequilibrium with changing even minor routines. I try to remember this when facing the fears of others.
But without change there can be no progress. Opening up boundaries and releasing strictures can be viewed as dangerous, or it can be viewed as liberating. The authors of the Declaration of Independence were proclaiming basic human rights, and severing ties to a power that impeded those rights.They also set up a structure to insure that the citizens of these United States are left in freedom from any such power. It’s a beautiful model for a nation, and a parallel framework for personal liberty as well.
Here’s a little send-up from one author of the Declaration of Independence, which coincidentally goes well with fireworks:
“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be … the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. …For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
– Thomas Jefferson
June 24, 1826 Monticello