July 4th: New Meaning

Last Thursday, July 4th, was Liberation Day in Rwanda, the national holiday celebrating the end of the genocide.

As some of you know, the 4th is no really my holiday. But, my scholars were excited about it and our social committee planned the day. Much like I do at home, I amiably attended. We began with a whiffle ball game against the scholars from a neighboring community. Then they threw quite the bash, with chocolate chip cookies and the closest we could find to solo cups with which we played drinking games with soda and water until our stomachs hurt and we’d asked our neighbors to use their latrine one too many times.

During the party, the scholars were discussing a student from the whiffle ball game who did not want to celebrate the 4th. As they speculated why that was, I added, “well, patriotism breeds,” and then trailed off as all eyes turned to me inquisitively. “Breeds what, Stacey?” one jokingly asked with kindness in his eyes. I diverted the question with a blithely remark.

But it’s been following me.

Maybe it is because our independence came at the expense of the freedom, and lives, of the indigenous communities before us. Or that the height of patriotism in the States in my lifetime came post 9-1-1, and with it a hatred of Muslims and two wars.

Perhaps it is the boundary drawing and injustice of who holds the pen when nations are formed, or who controls the gates and stamps to permit- and deny- access.

So, while I know July 4th is a celebration of liberation in its own right, and while I am grateful for the freedom and agency my citizenship affords me, it just feels more complicated than that.

And I am struck by the naming of these simultaneous holidays: independence, liberation.

A favorite theorist of mine posits that a crisis of emerging adulthood in our society is in the pursuit of independence as some ideal, offering interdependence as a preferred destination (Parks).

This reminds me of a quote that I love: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.” (anonymous aboriginal woman)

This type of liberation- realized through our interdependence- feels worth striving for, worth celebrating. It is a liberation that knows we are not free until every human being is free. And this freedom transcends civil liberties and speaks to the core of our beings, beckoning Deep Self to surface and shine brightly.

This freedom eradicates lines, limits, and restrictions based on race, class sex, ability, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, and other identities we’ve categorized as more or less worthy, distributing power as if it were not something residing in spirit and beauty, but a commodity to trade, barter, and hoard.

We’ve not tasted a freedom like this- one that honors and delights in human dignity, letting Love flourish and continue to expand. How I thirst to know this liberation.

With this, I’ve decided to start observing the Fourth of July as a holiday not of celebration, but of visioning. I’ll remember where we’ve come from, in our experiences as oppressed and oppressors, and I’ll remember where I’m walking, dreaming of Relationship restored, fighting for freedom, building towards interdependence.

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