The fourth of July is once again upon us. Signs of patriotism adorn our communities. We make plans to gather with family and friends for picnics and barb-e-ques. We top it off with fireworks, magical enough to turn a ninety year old into a nine year old for an enthralling hour.
We take our freedom often as a rather than a gift. We go about our daily lives oblivious that it could be any other way. Maybe that is an effect from our success as a democracy. We have few citizens who truly understand what it means to fight for that freedom. I am sensitive to this, having grown up in a military family. My undergraduate degree is in Political Science, primarily because of my love of country. I would argue my twenty-three years (so far) as a public school teacher would be my version of dedicated service to my country.
I am still like most of my fellow Americans. I enjoy the fruits of freedom without too much contemplation on the toil and care that makes that toil possible. So I was surprised when reading the book Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, that I found myself reflecting on freedom and what it truly means.
The book was a glimpse into cultures I have little understanding of. While there were some things to appreciate, like the value placed on family, there was much to make me very thankful to be born in the west, under the stars and stripes of freedom.
This book did more than make me thankful. It made me realize freedom needs to be cared for and cultivated lest it rots. It also got me thinking about how freedom does not mean anything goes or “easy street” for citizens. Freedom can be hard. It means options and choices, which require us to be thoughtful and discerning about those choices. It means we have to be respectful of those who don’t see things the same way we do and work for common ground, or at least a way to tolerate the difference. For Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who grew up indoctrinated against free thought or choices, freedom was a bit bewildering and she says tiresome. I got that. Sometimes don’t we wish someone would just make the decisions for us and just tell us what to do?
That unfortunately would be the unravelling of a democracy. We have freedoms and we enjoy the fruit. The price is to tend the garden by participating and voting. We have to think and make the hard choices. We need to recognize there is a battle for freedom going on in the world and our enemy is the easily named terrorists, but it also the taking for granted the very freedoms we should be vigilant to protect.
So while I will indulge in a hot dog and hopefully some fireworks, I plan to pledge anew my commitment to be forever free.