Thursday, July 4, 2013

Interdependence Day

4th of July in the Desert

Today is Independence Day and all across this land Americans will be celebrating our nation's "freedom." 

I have been reflecting on "freedom," and what it really means to be free. I imagine most people think that freedom means, "having no restrictions." In fact, over the years this is exactly how many Americans have come to understand what it means to be free. 

Today, we live in a society where individuals are free to do whatever they need to do in order to be as successful and comfortable as possible. Today's "American Dream" is to be independently wealthy, relying on no one, owing nothing to anyone.

But I think our nation never would have  been born, let alone survived, if our ancestors lived according to that ethic of "no restrictions." 

From the very beginning, the people of this land understood "freedom" as "obligation".  People in any civilized society freely agree to live together for the benefit of the common good.  In the beginning, our ancestors in this nation made a covenant that they would all take good care of one another  - that covenant is called the "constitution." 

Back in the 17th century, when the seeds of our nation were first being planted, John Winthrop spoke to his fellow pilgrims just as they were landing on the shores of this new world.  His famous "City on a Hill" sermon beautifully expresses the principles which guided the formation of this nation.

We must delight in each other,
make others conditions are own,
rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together,
always having before our eyes
our community as members of the same body

As we celebrate our nation's freedom on this Independence Day, I fear that we have wandered very far away from the foundation upon which our ancestors built this nation. Rugged individualism,  rampant consumerism, self-centered manipulation of the marketplace, a rigid class system composed of those who "have" and those who "have not" have replaced the ethic of working together for the common good - delighting in each other, making others conditions are own. 

On this Independence Day, when we celebrate our nation's beginnings, we would do well to remember the covenant which free people made with one another when they first arrived on these shores because no society can survive or thrive if freedom is understood as "no restrictions."

In fact, I think it may be a good idea to re-name this 4th of July celebration. Instead of calling today Independence Day, it may be far better to call it "Interdependence Day." 

Happy Interdependence Day!

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