By R.L. Washington, Team NIA
When they dared to look back and notice what they had become, the growing band of American colonists realized they were among a diverse collection of peoples from different lands, different communities, different cultures and different interests all with one common resolve to live independent and free of fear and limitation. So from their personal perspective of oppression, they focused for a moment, not on musket and domain, but on commonality. In that moment, right there in the same grand State House of Pennsylvania, that continues to this day to hold history stilled in its hands, the drafters of all collective interests declared for the whole of America’s future, the unimpeachable freedoms of its people.
While the 4th of July has become a family day of sorts – a respite from work, some of us may always have reason to reflect on its deeper meaning. And that’s a good thing. Because the deeper meaning of Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence, continues to directly impact lives today just as it did for those 56 originators who treaded distance and circumstance to forge it into reality in 1776.
For organizations like the NIA, those impacts continue to drive the pursuit of full potential and opportunity of all children regardless of the choices or circumstances of their parents. Those impacts continue to prioritize the pursuit of new ideas in restoring individuals and families victimized by crime as well as those locked in cycles of criminal activity. Those impacts force us to grapple with the hard numbers that paint undeniable pictures of our addiction epidemic, our apparent acceptance of the measured flaws in our education system and the absurdities of profiting on incarceration instead of solving problems that dictate a need for more incarceration. Such conditions are our collective truth of the day.
In the movie “Amistad,” the actor Anthony Hopkins portrays former President John Quincy Adams in a memorable soliloquy reminding the Supreme Court that the freedoms we once fought for remain the relevant freedoms of Americans across the changing of times. That the “natural state of man” was then, has always been and still remains: to be free. And that freedom in its truth, can only be represented, not by anyone judging the moment – not by anyone examining the moment from outside the predicament. But only by the human, him or herself in desperate pursuit of the freedom. And that that human will go to any length to secure and sustain those freedoms, even in war or in revolt or day-to-day acts of desperation.
We might do well on this day to commit ourselves to a new level of empathy for those who still struggle to be free. We might do well on this day to challenge our political leaders, especially local leaders to stop running from our “dirty laundry” and face truth squarely as the first bold step toward empowering all of those they represent. We might do well on this day to set musket and domain aside just long enough to invite every American (even those who have paid us back for committing crimes) back into the hall to participate with the one finger of power we share – that was afforded us as an affirmation of independence: our vote.
Perhaps in all of this lies the true greatness of the day. That we dare to acknowledge that freedom is an evolving state of being. That the beauty of any document declaring it, any day celebrating it, any institution protecting it grows as its people grow – as their unalienable right to it and their demand for it changes and grows.