In the U.S. we are celebrating Independence Day today. July 4th marks the day that our forefathers declared we would be a free nation. A lot followed in the months and years ahead while establishing and defining that freedom. Some of it is amazingly inspirational, some deeply shameful. Standing up to distant and oppressive leadership is what we like to remember; caring only about the freedoms of wealthy, white men is something we try to forget. Both still exist and linger in the undercurrent of American culture. Those of us who oppose the latter are often accused of treading upon the former.
But I can love my country without believing it’s perfect. I can even love my country without believing it’s better or more important than other countries. I can look back through American history with an open mind and heart in an effort to glean truth. I can be unabashedly proud of the accomplishments of our forefathers without deifying them. I respect these men, not because they were super human, but because they were so very human. Full of flaws, personal demons and prejudices these ordinary men came together to accomplish something extraordinary. This is so much more remarkable to me than if they were perfect; accomplishing greatness is easy if you’re a god, not so much if you’re human.
So, today, along with many others in my home country, I reflect upon our independence and the men in our history books. I respect their memories, not through blind allegiance, but instead thoughtful reflection. I honor their work by recognizing that what they set in motion is not finished. They understood their own imperfection and mortality; this is why they made our founding document a living, breathing one. There was an expectation that we would carry on that which they laid the groundwork for.
And I’m quite sure, as a woman, I am not someone many of them expected (or perhaps even wanted) to carry on in their place. But I forgive them this flaw and focus instead on the path ahead; the one they paved for us that is in constant need of repairs and improvements. The one that leads the way to true equality for all of its citizens. The ability to work toward this noble goal, not a belief that we’ve already reached it, is the real freedom I’m celebrating today.