Wishing all American readers a happy, safe and relaxing 4th of July.
What does Independence mean to you?
The first thoughts for most of us born English Speakers, American or not, are historic, the Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1776. I imagine the majority of Americans think of it positively, with pride. Europeans, nearly 250 years after the event that led to it, probably neutrally, perhaps with disinterest. I do not presume to speak for the descendants of the indigenous inhabitants of North America, but guess their thoughts might be different.
For many non Americans, independence in the political sense brings back different memories. Many in Eastern Europe will recall losing their independence to Soviet expansionism after World War 2, then regaining it, some peacefully, others violently, after the collapse of the former USSR. Some formerly independent countries no longer exist, others have become fragmented with parts tacked on to neighbours. New or resuscitated states have emerged after generations of being part of the Soviet bloc.
Others like Ukraine and Georgia have had to fight to defend their independence a second time, at great cost in lives, destruction to infrastructure and in Crimea, loss of territory.
For a mere handful of English-speaking baby boomers of mainly British descent, independence brings back proud memories of our own Declaration of Independence on 11 November 1965 when Rhodesia refused to accept the treacherous betrayal of the British Government and decided to go it alone. Memories made all the more bitter by the chaos, destruction and huge number of casualties under the evil Mugabe regime which was forced on us 15 years later.
Apart from current American citizen’s justified pride in their country, the rest is history. Neither American nor any other national independence anniversary has any power to dictate the course of our lives from here on. Even my feelings of injustice for the way my country and its people were treated is no longer relevant. Being bitter about it,would only poison my life.
What does matter is how we feel about our own independence today.
It seems strange that a country that fought a War of Independence to free its people from tyranny and then a civil war to uphold its constitution should now be allowing successive governments and special interest groups to gradually chip away at those hard-won freedoms which individuals have enjoyed in the land of the free for so long.
A chipping away that is closely following similar erosion of individual freedom and powers of self-determination happening across Europe and other democracies. Done in the name of human rights, religious freedom and tolerance, spread like a plague by the availability of social media to anyone with a smart phone, the effects are a more serious threat to our independence than any terrorist bomb.
The independence that does matter, the one that governs our future success and happiness is the individual independence we fight for ourselves, our freedom to voice our opinions and not to be treated as racists, homophobes or any of the other names reserved for those who refuse to be silenced in the name of political correctness. Independence that allows us to leave the herd and follow our own paths and not be labelled as uncaring or selfish.
Independence of thought, resistance to criticism, ridicule and even persecution have been essential for the great creators and inventors in the past. By refusing to follow the herd and accept the status quo they developed many of the products, procedures, and systems that allow us to live the life we do today. Where would we be without electric light and power, telephones, radio or antibiotics, all created by people who could think independently, refused to accept failure.
That is why keeping your mind capable of independent thought is more important to your future than Independence Day itself.
How independent is your mind?