You may be surprised to learn that usually my catchy blog titles are the last thing I write before hitting ‘publish’ and sending my wisdom out to the generations. I sit here at the computer and then, as if by magic, I’m inspired by the cosmos. Take “Today is Wednesday” or “Day 15” as excellent examples of titles the universe has sent to me recently (while it feels recent, I see from a quick review that some time has passed).
Today, however, the title comes first. I don’t really have anything to say. I just wanted to write the words Interdependence Day.
(My problem here, in writing about American history, and any assessment of American government, is that my American history teacher subscribes to this blog. I’ve written about her before. High stakes.)
I think in celebrating independence we are celebrating the freedom to have self-determination. You are free to gather with whom you choose, free to live by and teach your children what you believe, free to use your voice, free to imagine new ways, free to invite others to join you. And we’re also celebrating what America represents, a bold experiment, the promise within a new form of democratic government where people, citizens and not subjects, could have a say in its decisions. And not only the few who inherited a seat at the table. Also, I feel appreciative, on this July 4th, for the checks and balances, the limits set to protect citizens and the system from too much power in any one of the governing.
We’ve built something worth protecting. Worth considering and understanding. But it won’t be protected, or strengthened, or meet its potential, with more independence.
According to Merriam-Webster independence means:
not subject to control by others
not requiring or relying on something else (not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct)
not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood)
When I read these definitions, I think of my kids. They want to do it their way, they don’t want me always telling them what or how to do things. They love to imagine being orphans, self-reliant, longing for the day when they can eat as much ice cream as they want. And the older they get, and the more we trust them to base choices on available information, on safety, on health, with respect, the more choices they get to make. And the better the choices they make, measured by the outcome of those choices, the more the trust grows, and the more choices they get. At least I think that’s the idea.
As an adult, though, I know that saying “you’re not the boss of me” is not really effective people-skills. I also know that I do rely on and require others. I give and take, you give and take, that is how things work. And when I don’t give and take, when there’s no one to rely on for care or livelihood, when I don’t consult with others for guidance in conduct, when I’m not able to compromise for the sake of something larger than this moment of small freedom, therein lies madness.
Here’s the thing: we’re all in this together. When I use Round-up on my lawn, your children eat it in their Cheerios. Water isn’t independent. Climate isn’t independent. Viruses are not independent. Policies are not independent.
Government exists to keep us out of a free-for-all of person v person where might is right. If you think that government is broken, the only option is to fix it.
Ladies and gents, we have a lot of work to do. Part of it is a new declaration of independence, not about the personal freedom to wear offensive t-shirts, but from cultural norms that diminish health, imagination, possibility, and connection, systems that concentrate too much power in the hands of too few. Independence from being too immersed in media moving our emotions from low to low, from sorrow to anger to fear. From a fossil-fuel-based economy. From an economic system that concentrates extreme wealth for so few while leaving many lives, human and other, in desperate situations. From so many of us living our lives using so many drugs. From the crazy, crushing list of ridiculous expectations we have built around us. From charlatan priests using what should be spiritual to gain political power. Possibly from Amazon Prime.
And a declaration of interdependence. Building some trust. Sharing more in the understanding that in health lies strength, resilience. That health is about body, mind, and spirit, it is not measured only in bank notes. Maybe even shifting from filling our schedules so full with all of our accomplishments, on our and our children’s behalf, that there’s no room to take care of each other. Acknowledging that what we give our collective attention to grows.
Everyone I know is working hard and trying. Maybe we don’t need to do more. But maybe we can do different, help each other to imagine different.
We are together in this. And that can be a good thing.