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Free to Be You (and Me?) What About Them? July 4, 2021

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

– quoted from “The Declaration of Independence” drafted by the Committee of Five and (eventually) signed by delegates of the Second Continental Congress

In the United States, a lot of people – one might even argue, most people – are celebrating the Fourth of July, Independence Day. They would have taken the day off from work (if it wasn’t already the weekend) and many will have Monday off. Since Covid-19 numbers are going down in most of the country, people are celebrating with picnics, get-togethers, parades, concerts, and – even when they’ve been advised against it – fireworks and gunshots in the air.

That’s how we do it in America. Right?

And, we have the freedom to do that. Right?

Except, such assumptions leave out the millions of Americas working today. Some (like me, as well as musicians and other performers, theatrical technicians, and a handful of pyrotechnics professionals) choose to work today and may even be excited to work today. Others, millions and millions of others, don’t have a choice. They work because they lack the financial freedom and/or they work in order for the rest of us to celebrate, freely.

In that last category are all the essential workers like people in healthcare, first responders, grocery workers, delivery people, and people in various forms of journalism – all the people who have kept us going over the last year-plus. Some of them are also in that penultimate category (just as are some in the first category).

And, since I’m being extra real here, the people who serve(d) in the military and their families sometimes fall in all three categories.

One of the questions I have today is: Do you picture these people when you think of what it means to be American? Do you give thanks for these people when you celebrate your freedom (assuming you feel free? Has/Does your understanding of freedom, independence, “liberty and justice” for all change when you picture, express gratitude for, and even celebrate some of the people above?

Or, since I snuck it in there, do you think of those people when you say the Pledge of Allegiance?

“…Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

“…such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn….”

– quoted from the “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech by Frederick Douglas (July 5, 1852)

The Fourth of July, as a day of pomp and circumstance, is always slightly ironic to me, because it is simply a publishing date. Granted, it’s not the only publishing date I celebrate. While at least one of the documents I mention over the years is much more inclusive than the Declaration of Independence, it is not widely celebrated in the United States.

I know, I know, there are some people thinking, “Hold up a minute, the Declaration of Independence is inclusive.” To which, I would respond (as anyone familiar with the documents history would respond) that it was, actually, intentionally exclusive. However, it was also designed to be adjusted to, theoretically, become more inclusive – hence the amendments and the ability of the three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial) to add-on. However, the rights, provisions, and promise of this nation still aren’t extended equally to all citizens or to all within the nation’s borders. It’s not a perfect system, nor is it a perfect union.

Although, one could argue that despite – or because of – current events it is still “a more perfect Union.”

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

– quoted from a letter John Adams wrote to Abigail Adams, with the heading “Philadelphia July 3d, 1776

Going back to my reference to essential workers, service people, and all of their families; today’s practice is a celebration, but it is also a reminder. It is a reminder that, just as Medgar Evers said in 1963, “freedom is never free.” It is a reminder, just as Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young sang in 1971, that you can “find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground” – and, sometimes, behind bars (or sitting on the bench).

It is also a reminder that stresses the importance, as the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. did during the commencement speech he gave at Oberlin College on June 14, 1965, of “remaining awake through” challenging and changing times. Some people think of pandemic and the events of the last year-plus as a wake-up call.

But, let’s be real. Some people are hitting snooze and going back to normal, I mean sleep. The thing we must remember about the events of 1776 is that when it comes to freedom, independence, “liberty and justice,” we all truly have it… or some of us are ignoring the elephant in the room.

“All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality.”

– quoted from the Oberlin College commencement speech entitled, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (June 14, 1965)

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, July the 4th) at 2:30 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “4th of July 2020”]

[NOTE: This playlist has been remixed since last year. It is still slightly different on each platform, but mostly with regard to the before/after class music. The biggest difference is that the videos from last year’s blog post do not appear on Spotify.]

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

“Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.”

– quoted from the “Introduction” to Common Sense, signed by the “Author” (Thomas Paine, known as “The Father of the American Revolution”) and dated “Philadelphia, February 14, 1776

### LET FREEDOM RING (by lifting the bell & ringing it) ###