Yesterday was the 4th of July or Independence Day. I waited most of the day to write it. Why? I had to ask myself what the hesitation was about (there is a reason for everything – it’s not just about procrastination).
What does the holiday truly mean?
I am grateful – to live in a land where I can choose my career. I can pursue my purpose with many options to choose from to spread my gifts to serve others with. I have the freedom to bring my grandkids to the park or play kickball with them and to celebrate (or not) the holidays the way I choose. I have much to be thankful for.
I am happy – for the precious memories I have of family gatherings we enjoyed celebrating as I grew up. Family holidays were an important part of not just my life, but many others. Those memories can bring, not just a smile to the face, but to the heart and soul as well.
I am sad – for the meaning to others that suffered through the birth of our nation. Our history is not full of only prideful actions but shamefully cruel ones as well. Most Indigenous people do not see it as a celebration – but the beginning of the end of their freedoms. I am mindful of that. The fact is, we had to take time to distinguish who could be free in steps of civil rights that still need much more work. The facts of slavery that took until this present year to have Juneteenth declared, speaks volumes of how slow our speed of equality proceeds.
But mostly I am reflective –
Reflective of the words written on the Declaration to which we celebrate.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…”
They are words that when imbedded in our actions make us feel like Patriots that are proud to be Americans. As a nation, however, after more than two hundred years, we are not there yet. Sometimes, we are so divided, it seems we have abandoned the desire to even hold them as truths.
If other countries, anywhere, could see us stand out based on our example of those truths, then we would have arrived. But we are still far from reaching it. Anytime we look down on others, see them as less than ourselves, we are not holding up to our Patriotism no matter how much we wave our flag.
Your neighbor, your community, your state, along with others, are all equals, no matter what their skin color, gender, religious beliefs, or political views are and they are part of your pledge of Patriotism. To say you are an American, is to say they are entitled to be treated with respect, regardless of their differences. It means your rights are no more important than theirs. They matter as much as you do.
It isn’t the laws that make us matter, it’s how we treat each other that make up who we are. Each one of us collectively, with our individual actions, speaks to who we are as a country. What can you do as an individual, to show you care about others? Not just those you relate to, but those you don’t are just as important, maybe even more.
If you live in a community where people complain about those setting off fireworks and scaring pets as well as those suffering from PTSD and Anxiety such as Veterans, and you cross state lines to purchase them to set off despite this – you are going against the very truths you are celebrating. Consider the others. Perhaps an act of kindness – volunteer at a pet shelter to understand the impact with more clarity or mow that Veteran neighbor’s lawn (you get the point with these examples). This would go so much further to show your true colors of Patriotism. What a day of true celebration it would be if we all acted that way for Independence Day and beyond.
Sadly we’re not there yet. From the sounds in my neighborhood, and the social media complaints that have others saying, “what do you expect, it’s the 4th of July?!” This year’s Independence Day did not reflect the unity in compassion for each other. Maybe someday, somehow, perhaps we will start.
Compassion Not Contempt
Written by Melody Belliveau