“For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
― Nelson Mandela
I hope you are having a great Independence Day!
This day celebrates America’s freedom from the Kingdom of Great Britain, but the meaning of freedom continues to evolve and expand. As Nelson Mandela said: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Nelson Mandela holds a special place in my heart because I moved with my family from South Africa to America in 1986. My father risked everything to come to America so that he could have peace of mind. While in South Africa, we lived in a middle class white neighborhood outside of Johannesburg where extreme inequality and violence was normal. The average white person's house was roomy, had a swimming pool and maids. They also had 15 foot brick walls with electric barb wire fencing on top. Even though white people were technically free they had created their own prisons. Outside our big brick walls it was normal to be carjacked or held at gun point and the government was very controlling. They censored which books and movies we were allowed to watch and of course, they controlled the news.
During apartheid (1948-1990), non-whites were not considered citizens of South Africa. Their rights were stripped away and they were forced to live in overcrowded shanty towns. Mixed marriages of blacks and whites were illegal, families were torn apart. Buses, water fountains, public bathrooms, beaches, hospitals, and schools we all segregated. Four years after my family left South Africa, Apartheid was finally abolished and Nelson Mandela was released from his 27 year stay in Prison. That man changed the face of the world and humanity got to see what moving forward together can look like.
Through my 20's, like many other white males of my generation, I was comfortable with the freedoms in America and I took them for granted. I had a growing sense of mistrust with our government and I would complain to my parents that America was an unjust country. Now, let me just say that there is plenty of injustice in America, but what I am more interested in just now is the historical context for all of this and where we can go. My parents lived through a dark mark in human history and they have gratitude each day for the freedoms we enjoy here in America. And those freedoms are here because of men and women that dared to see and demand for more than what was given to them. Yes, they fought and died in wars, but they fought for something so much bigger than themselves. And they knew about a better life to be had because of people who dared to speak it and write it and live it.
The 4 of July, was never really a big deal for me, but as I have developed and studied more of our history, I see how inspired our revolutionary forefathers and foremothers were. And I am grateful for their vision and what they made possible for all of us. The United States, as messy as it's been, was founded and is still being found in the spirit of making life better for EVERYONE. This is a process, and more than ever, I want to be part of it.
I want to be a freedom founder of our time. How can we dream out loud a vision of the future that gives thanks to where we've come from but isn't afraid to move on? How can we foster more liberty in each other?
The American flag itself beckons us higher. In the words of Eran Shalev, " … in the 1770s an alternative and revolutionary political cosmology emerged and was enshrined in the new nation’s [flag]: a diffuse constellation of uniform floating stars devoid of a solar center that embodied egalitarian and republican values...The American Revolution would thus give rise to new modes of understanding and communicating the political order: no kingly star overshadowed and dominated others; together they constituted a novel political system in which a plurality of individual stars held together, comprising a unity that was more perfect than its discrete parts.”
As we celebrate our nation’s freedom today, may we continue hold this revolutionary vision to strive for even greater freedom for ourselves, our sisters and brothers from all walks of life, our communities, and our beautiful planet.
In the Spirit of Freedom,