I’ve never lived in an oppressed nation. Wars for independence from a government that restricts freedoms from its citizens have passed me by. Citizenship was granted me when I was born in Charleston, Illinois, USA.
Because of where I was born and grew up, I had freedoms that came naturally—were taken for granted by me, as well as by most of the people I knew—such as:
· Freedom to worship – when, where, and if I wanted to
· Freedom to learn – school was compulsory until age 16, but learning can take place anywhere, with anyone, on any subject
· Freedom to be – the person I became might not appeal to everyone, nor even to a majority, but it’s the person I was allowed to be, or claimed the right to be, and so it is who I am
· Freedom to change – here’s the one I like best (well, sort of best) – change comes to everyone; it’s inherent in our very being: we are born helpless and dependent, we grow and learn to separate ourselves from others, we become the adult on whom others depend, then we grow old and dependent (perhaps) once more, and then we die. If anyone claims not to change at all—I’d like to see that person. Actually, I’d rather not, because a person who doesn’t change is probably dead.
· Freedom to express my opinion, if I want to – guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the United States of America. And we’ve all read or heard of instances where someone’s opinion was dangerous and caused untold misery; where claiming protection under the right to freedom of speech was used to ill purposes. But I, and you, all of us, have the right to express ourselves – with the caveat that we don’t hurt anyone else. Perhaps our forefathers assumed we’d know that, common sense being in greater supply back in the day.These Freedoms are what today give us – all of us – the independence so many fought and died for in the 1700s, and continue to fight for in the 2000s. It doesn’t have to be a bloody battlefield fight; it can be as close as your local food bank – the free summer lunch program for school-age children – the rescue mission for men and women who have bottomed out and yet find a place where someone loves them and wants to help them come back from addiction, abuse, and a sense of futility and worthlessness. It can be in your own family – a child who needs a helping hand, a grandchild whose employment ends and who needs a place to live, a spouse who suffers from depression or a medical problem and who needs acceptance and the knowledge that someone cares enough to stand by them.
Independence isn’t just some high-flown, abstract concept – Independence is a sense of self-worth, which leads to a sense of being connected to others – and ultimately, Independence is trumped by our dependence on a divine being (whoever we acknowledge that to be).Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion. Yours may be different, based on your experiences. But you still have Freedoms. Guaranteed. Give thanks for them. And--don’t forget them.