~ 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 ~
I don’t know if it is because of age, life experience, increased awareness, where I am in my personal life or if perhaps it is a combination of them all…but I find myself far more aware of our National holidays and their true meanings than I’ve ever been at any other time in my life. Especially the holidays regarding our great Nation’s history, as well as the men and women who enable us to have all of the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy. (Holiday’s such as Armed Forces Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day and The 4th of July – Independence Day).
There was a time in my life, (and I hate to say it), where for the most part these holidays meant being off work, doing something fun, partying, relaxing, etc… Other than an intellectual acknowledgement of what the day was actually about, I really didn’t give it much thought. It was a day that often, (looking back on it now), was all about me and what I wanted to do on “my time off”. Never did I really “think” about what these days were set aside for ~ or the gravity of what they are really about.
More than any other time I can recall, September 11, 2001 changed everything. It changed how I looked at the world around me and gave me a humble awareness that “I should understand not just in my mind…but in my heart, why I have the life that I do!” Why my life is different than that of most of the world. To understand why I have choices and opportunities most of the world’s population would dare not even dream about. Why I have the clothes on my back, water to drink, food in my stomach with a pillow under and a roof over my head at night….a luxury much of the world has to struggle to try and have on a daily basis.
What does Liberty, Freedom and Independence mean anyway?
Liberty is defined as: The right to choose; The freedom to think or act without being constrained by necessity or force. Freedom from captivity or slavery; Free or allowed to do something. Of liberty John F. Kennedy said this:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”
Patrick Henry had this to say:
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me; give me liberty or give me death!”
Freedom is defined as: The ability to act freely; Release or rescue from being physically bound, or from being confined, enslaved, captured or imprisoned; The state of not being subjected to something unpleasant. Of Freedom, Dwight D. Eisenhower had this to say:
“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.”
Charles de Gaulle said this:
“History does not teach fatalism. There are moments when the will of a handful of free men breaks through determinism and opens up new roads.”
Independence is defined as: Freedom from control; Freedom from dependence on or control by another person, organization or state. It also means sovereignty, autonomy, liberty, individuality and liberation. On the subject of independence, here are a few quotes:
“Without moral and intellectual independence, there is no anchor for national independence.” ~ David Ben-Gurion
“To safeguard democracy the people must have a keen sense of independence, self-respect and their oneness.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
“In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” ~ Mark Twain
Such strong and passionate words, perhaps spoken of by men who deep within themselves already had an innate and humble awareness of liberty and freedom ~ or perhaps spoken by men who, having stared in the face of the alternative and having seen that truth therein, found themselves consumed by a passion that would allow for nothing to ever come before it. For it is in Liberty that we find our Freedom and it is in our freedom that we have Independence and finally it is in our independence that we have Life as we know it today.
There are certain behaviors that insure our ability to have Liberty, Freedom and Independence, which result in our life as we know it and those are: Service – Helpful action being done for someone else; Perseverance – Determined, steady or continued action or belief; Defense – The protection of something from attack by an enemy; Battle – To fight or struggle against powerful forces.
In looking at our Independence Day I am filled with gratitude, honor and pride that I am an American and that I live in a Nation that allows me Liberty, Freedom & Independence. But it also causes me to reflect on it in an even more personal way. My Independence Day was October 4, 1988 ~ alone in my room, realizing that I had reached a point of making a decision to either continue how I had been going and die for nothing or prepare for the battle of a lifetime and truly live for something. It was on that day that I saw with absolute clarity that I had existed as nothing more than a slave to my addiction. That my actions, thoughts, self worth and indeed my very sense of being was under the attack and control of a foreign force that wished to strip me of all I was as a human being, cast me aside and see me dead. I realized in that moment that for me it was now worth everything to LIVE. If it cost a job or a relationship ~ so be it. Knowing I was walking into unfamiliar territory where I didn’t know how to live ~ no longer mattered. I only needed answer a few questions – Did I or didn’t I want to live above all else? Did I or didn’t I want Freedom, Liberty, Independence ~ LIFE more than anything? Was I willing to do whatever it would take, no matter how long it might take ~ to live free of alcohol and drugs? Would my insecurity with God be my excuse to say no or would I take a risk, ask for help and live?
Thankfully my choice was LIFE. I reached that point of utter desperation that is in the pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous where I said:
“God, you either are or your are not. You are to be everything in my life or you are to be nothing in my life. God I choose You!” I have found that since that day the same truths shared in the quotes mentioned earlier have proven absolutely true. What a gift this independence is! No more being bound, no more chains, no more emptiness, no more hopelessness ~ no more enslaving myself to that harsh task master. This is a battle worth fighting and defending daily. I think I can sum it up best in this quote by Charles Kingsley:
“There are two freedoms – the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought.”
To all the members of our armed forces and their families; “Thank you and God bless you all!
© 2010-2014 Rebecca Balko