A Contrarian View of Independence

Our nation celebrates it and applauds its virtue… “as Free and Independent States…”

Children grow up straining for it with every step… “I can do it myself.”

I used to think I wanted it… “You can’t tell me how to live my life.”

But independence is a lie. Or at least an illusion.

Each shred of humanity is no more independent of the rest than the ocean is independent of the snowcaps. We may see no immediate dependency, but we are each counting on something outside of ourselves to make our days mean something… or even to just make it through our days (ever tried to create your own air supply to breathe?). When the colonies in North America declared themselves independent of the Crown of Great Britain, they were certainly striking a chord for freedom (which is not the same thing as independence), but the way we’ve applied the concept of individual independence in our country today is a far cry from what they had in mind in their Declaration when they wrote,

…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

That doesn’t sound like the kind of independence we see at work today, when athletes won’t fulfill a pledge to multi-million dollar contracts, and celebrity’s won’t fulfill a pledge to more than a few years of a marriage, or where most of us pledge very little to anything other than ourselves. It sounds a lot more like a mutual recognition of dependence on one another. The early colonists knew they didn’t stand a chance against the King unless they could band together. (“Hang together or hang separately” ring a bell?) Their national independence was predicated on their ability to trust and depend on each other.

I wonder if the same is not true today.

Where will our nation be if we continue to live under the assumption that my life and your life and the life of the welder down the street are not connected in any way? That we’re all independent of each other? Where will we end up if we fail to acknowledge just how dependent we really are?

This Independence Day, go ahead and celebrate the birth of a great nation. Have apple pie and play some baseball and blow up some cheap Chinese gunpowder if you can do it without burning down your neighborhood. But realize America, that we are not really independent at all. Each of us are connected. Each of us matter. And each of us needs the other. The greatest days of our nation are those marked by men and women who “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Those days don’t have to be left in the past.

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