Saturday, July 04, 2009

a response

The Fourth of July is the day Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, not that it was actually signed on July fourth, they just celebrate it then. (We'll blame the teachers for that one) The Declaration of Independence made known to the world (eg, Britain) that the people were no longer going to be kicked around by another country. From now on, they stated, we will kick our own people around! This were their first step away from the parent country. Thus America celebrates her freedom every 4th of July.

Having spent my entire childhood in the United States, I have found myself in a position of losing a holiday when I moved to Australia. Growing up my family loved a good celebration, especially if it held the potential to blow someone's hand off. The day would start out early. Dad would start the makings of vanilla ice cream. Soon we'd have bags packed and be heading out to our favourite firework destination. As any good hill billy will tell you, the best locations are on tops of cars and buildings. We'd stake our spot with friends and start up the barbecue. The barbecue would involve hot dogs and roasted corn on the cob that would swim in butter. For desert, watermelon and ice cream. With our bellies bulging, we lay on blankets (yes, on top of cars and occasionally a roof) to watch the official fireworks show. It would be spectacular. It would feel like you could reach out and touch those big sparkly fireballs. But the end of the firework show didn't mean the end of the night. Now it was time to light our own fireworks. My entire street would line up in their driveways to light off firecrackers. The street lit up like daylight...if daylight was green, blue, red, and gold. The whole neighbourhood was filled with sound. Screaming rockets were thrown into the sky to explode into bright colours. Smoke would hang heavy in the air, it would fill the nostrils and sting the eyes. It was one of 2 nights of the year we were allowed to stay up well past midnight. (the other was Christmas Eve...yeah, we had extra traditions for Christmas)

Over the past decade national freedoms in America have changed. Our understanding of freedom of speech and freedom of press, among many, have all changed. Personal freedom, such as the freedom to make a choice, a stand, a statement of belief, have not. Nationally we may be free, but freedom is not simply a state of a nation. It is a state of mind and body. It is personal. The choices we make about the people we want to be, continues to effect us. If we,as people, take these choices of freedom for granted our personal growth becomes stunted at best, stagnate at worst. No matter what our political stance, we celebrate and revel in our freedom, nationally as well as personally, on July 4th.

Today, I've missed my 7th fourth of July celebration but I am not concerned. I miss the fanfare, but when I'm serious, I know that my personal freedom was not founded on July 4. For me, freedom was very physical. It was when I took my first hesitant steps as an adult, spread my wings and flew away. Freedom to me is about making my own decisions, choosing my own path. Much like the United States, I'll probably make a few mistakes along the way, but no one will ever accuse me of taking my freedom for granted.

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