Celebrating Freedom

Fourth of July

By Cheryl Mahoney

As the date stamp should tell you, I’m writing this on the Fourth of July, before I join some friends for movies and hamburgers, and also lighting a fire in my friend’s backyard (don’t worry–she has a fire pit).  Fireworks and hamburgers have grown traditional for Fourth celebrations, and there’s nothing in the least wrong with that.  But because this blog is all about giving, sharing, changing the world, it also seems fitting to remember the perhaps deeper significance of the Fourth of July, a bit deeper than fireworks–freedom and liberty.

As long as we’re looking deeper and remembering history, I thought it would be good to look back and see what other people have said about freedom.  There is, of course, the most obvious quote for today:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” –Thomas Jefferson

It’s not really a very complicated quote, is it?  Just a few lines and simple ideas, only one four-syllable-plus word in there (inalienable), but the most profound ideas don’t always require complex expression.

“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” –Winston Churchill

He wasn’t American, of course, but I can rarely resist a Winston Churchill quote.  Besides, I think we rather owe him a debt for defending freedom back in 1940.  Because freedom isn’t a guarantee, of course, nor is it often easily obtained.

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

There’s no denying MLK, Jr. made considerable strides himself towards freedom.  Still, not everyone today is free, nor is the road ahead likely to be an easy one.  But it’s when we come together and fight for it that freedom can be secured.  Though “fighting” might be the wrong term to use.

“We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower

Let’s just say that we have to work for freedom–to work together.  And not in the superior role of liberator, but in an equal position of giving and taking, sharing and learning, all together.

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” –Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s

So on this Fourth of July, let’s set off fireworks, eat hamburgers, and celebrate freedom, while remembering that not everyone is free.  And after the fireworks fade, let’s go on to remember that the goal of freedom is not a race that has been finished, not until everyone has freedom.

“If you want to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors. There is no other.” –Carl Shurz


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