The long, low rumble of an approaching storm awakened me at 3am. Flashes of light sliced the white wooden slats of the shutters that cover my bedroom windows. A thunderclap shook the room. Going back to sleep was not an option.
I began to think. First, about what day it is, July 4, 2016, Independence Day here in the United States, then about what independence means to me.
I believe independence is knowing your own mind. It is choosing for yourself and not permitting your mind to play tricks on you about the choices that you make. Independence is not isolation. Independence is acknowledging the validity of your own judgement while accepting the limitations of that judgement. It is, in fact, the freedom to choose interdependence over isolation.
I recently returned from Romania where even after almost three decades since the fall of Communism, the older generation is still acutely distrustful. Partnerships are approached with cautious optimism, and for good reason; public trust is still routinely dealt a death blow at local and federal levels. This is something that is equally familiar to Americans.
The future, which requires engaged dialogue about poverty, violence, and corruption, seems tied inextricably to the past. By engaged dialogue I mean more than merely shouting opinions at one another. The ebb and flow of independence and interdependence over time calls for leaders to respect the balance of power, to take responsibility for their own poor judgement, and above all else, to never underestimate people who desire to assert their independence.
As the storm rages on and the power continues to flicker, the dawn’s early light reveals what I know in my heart to be true; the land of the free and the home of the brave can be wherever we choose it to be. That is the beauty of independence.