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Which freedom do you yearn to express this Independence Day? Last week—under time duress—I bought a simple black dress with an asymmetrical hem that rises to mini-level in the front—a declaration of rebellion against preconceptions about my age…plus the fact that it was the only summer dress I could find that wasn’t sleeveless or bling-infested. The events I bought it for haven’t happened yet. Actually making my appearance in that dress is going to require courage. I want my outfit to say I’m still an interesting, independent person, regardless of my socially degraded “senior” status.
Freedom to be yourself—the self you tend within and struggle to silence now and then is difficult to sustain. We swallow our opinions, our hopes, and often our dreams to squeeze into the tiny slots allotted us by life. Mostly, I think, we swallow too much—hence our many odd ailments and weight problems. Instead, we need to give ourselves the freedom to insist on personal happiness, contentment, and satisfaction. We have the ability to reframe our attitudes and, often, our environment to create all three. We shouldn’t have to settle for feeling less than anyone else.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed four fundamental freedoms all people in the world should possess: freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in your own way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Roosevelt’s ideas went on to be included in several international declarations, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 with Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. Whether all Americans still hold those freedoms dear is a matter for debate. Many deplore the heated conversations being held over current politics. Are we happier if we pretend to be? Perhaps.
I’m reminded of what is generally known as the Iroquois Confederacy, the oldest participatory democracy on Earth, having been formed around 1590 to contain five Native American nations. Women held a central role in the Iroquois society—deciding how food would be distributed—and individual boundaries were respected. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Iroquois Confederacy’s greatest admirers. Our own Revolution deliberately pulled factions apart as both British and Americans sought support for their war.
Those who crave absolute power, absolute control—whether it be in the workplace, the home, the nation, or the world—lose sight of the benefits of guaranteeing the four freedoms Roosevelt identified. In fact, they work best in an atmosphere of fear. When we’re afraid, we’re willing to think the worst, to hide, to strike out. We start swallowing and distorting our dreams in the same way we gobble opioids. Tattered, rotted dreams fester in our systems, creating despair instead of hope.
Thus, this Independence Day, I declare my SELF free from control other than my own self-discipline. How do you envision your freedom?