Photo credit: Elle Hughes
What does Freedom mean to you?
Americans will gather together on July 4th to celebrate Independence Day. The day set aside to commemorate the birth of The United States of America as its own nation, freed from British colonization in 1776. Many of us in the USA use the word Freedom nonchalantly as we have never known life any other way. It is a powerful concept and not to be taken lightly as it affords us choice and the possibilities to dictate our own destiny.
I was in my 30s when I traveled to India for the first time and I had the opportunity to see what life without freedom was like for some. In parts of India, the Caste system is still in place. It is a class system that is determined by your birth. There are a variety of levels in society. You are born into the level based on your parents and you cannot move up or down. If you were born to the lowest level, your family and generations to come will be in this level and this will prevent you from ever advancing or even communicating with the upper levels. If you are born to the upper levels, the Brahmins, you and your lineage will be forever Brahmins. Even if you are born in the upper levels, you still don’t have the freedom to determine your own destiny. Disclaimer - I am simplifying the Hindu based Caste System but this is true for the current life you are living. You cannot marry outside of your caste. Imagine if your birth determined your occupation let alone who your friends would be and how people perceive you? That experience left an indelible impression on me and I understood the importance and magnitude of living in a country where we are truly free.
In commemoration of USA’s Independence day, we have to thank our forefathers who realized the importance of freedom and their desire to live in a country Independent of British rule. Our freedom was not given to us, but was fought for. Lives were lost, families were separated and many hardships were endured to attain our Independence. Our freedom and the choices that it affords should not be taken for granted. There are no laws prohibiting us from living in a different city or state. We can decide to go to college or pursue a trade. We can speak to and associate with whomever we would like. We can follow in our parents footsteps or strive for a life better than the one we grew up in.
“I am an American; free born and free bred, where I acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
We don’t all take advantage of our freedoms and at times we allow ourselves to feel trapped in our situation. Either we feel like we are stuck with the hand that has been dealt or we feel like life is happening to us and we have no control. This is what life would be like without freedoms, but we are born free and we have to live accordingly. These limitations are often self-imposed. We put ourselves and our situations in a box and we tell ourselves stories that keep us there. The reality is that we do have choices and there are possibilities. That is not to say that it will be easy or that making those choices or changes will not require a bold move, but it is possible. Our freedom allows it. So if you want something out of life, you owe it to yourself and to our forefathers to act and exercise our freedoms.
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”
Next time you use the word freedom try to appreciate the magnitude of that word and the privilege of living in the land of the Free. Break down your self-imposed barriers and allow yourself to be as free as you really are. Be grateful that our freedom gives us the ability to soar and determine our destiny.
Happy 4th of July and enjoy Independence Day every day!
Comments will be approved before showing up.