A New Meaning To Independence Day

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] 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.” - United States Declaration of Independence

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On this Independence Day, I’d like to take the time to reflect on the meaning of independence and why the fight for freedom didn’t quite stop in 1776.

Here at Dressember, we believe that every person should have the ability to live vibrant, autonomous and independent lives. This statement is similar to the one America’s founding fathers had in mind when they decided to declare independence from Great Britain 241 long years ago. The belief that each human being has the innate right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a beautiful thing. However, this liberty isn’t as far-reaching as we would love to believe, and the reality is that there are still upwards of 20 million people living in the shackles of human trafficking.

To be independent is to be free, unburdened, and able to make your own choices. Yet, independence is most powerful hand-in-hand with dignity. Defined as “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect,” dignity is the light that shines in every one of us, labelling us as valuable and important. When dignity isn’t recognized in people, our humanity falls to the wayside and material things are considered more valuable than individuals, because we forget that at the very center of each of us lies worth that can’t be taken away.


When dignity isn’t recognized in people, our humanity falls to the wayside and material things are considered more valuable than individuals, because we forget that at the very center of each of us lies worth that can’t be taken away.


However, when this worth is recognized and people are allowed to live autonomously, their full potential can be realized. On a daily level, the simple freedoms that follow autonomy may be as simple as going where you want to go, or having access to doing work that fulfills you. In the greater scheme, a lifetime of autonomy is a gift both to individuals and the rest of the world, by allowing individuals to find out who they are and how their specific passions can contribute to the well-being of all.

In my own life, it took me a while to step into my autonomy. Although I have freedom from physical restraints, I let a lot of other people dictate my choices and life direction for a very long time. When I received some quality guidance and finally decided to use my voice and independence, I learned that I am the only one who knows what is best for myself. Even more so, I learned how my skills and passions could be used to offer something beautiful to the world and maybe even promote the independence of other people. Choosing to live autonomously has brought me joy and given me purpose. Sadly, this is not a choice afforded to all people, and it is worth fighting for because of the power it gives an individual, as well as the innate right we all hold to experience this independence. I think it is this autonomy that allows us all to move from merely existing to flourishing. And it is in this flourishing that we find out who we are and what we are doing here and begin to use our abilities for the good of all.


I think it is this autonomy that allows us all to move from merely existing to flourishing. And it is in this flourishing that we find out who we are and what we are doing here and begin to use our abilities for the good of all.


Today, let’s embrace the tension of celebrating the freedom we may have and also mourning for those who don’t share the same liberty. We can take this opportunity to understand our freedom as it exists in part: there is so much liberation that has already been done, but there is also so much work left still to do. We can celebrate the independence of a country and the dignity of every former slave who now walks free, while also knowing that the fight will not be over until autonomy is claimed by every single living person. Let’s appreciate America’s independence as a country--and the dignity claimed by the early revolutionaries--and use this as fuel to spark momentum in the ongoing war for global freedom. Let’s acknowledge the systemic injustices that take place and rob people of their rights but that can never rob them of their dignity. And let’s remind ourselves and each other of how far we have already come and how many chains have been broken because of the dedication and commitment to human dignity that all good freedom fighters share.


We can celebrate the independence of a country and the dignity of every former slave who now walks free, while also knowing that the fight will not be over until autonomy is claimed by every single living person.


As Audre Lorde famously said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” Each of us carries the inherent responsibility to work towards the unshackling of all our sisters and brothers. Today is a glorious reminder of the beginning of America’s independence, and this deserves to be celebrated. But I challenge you to also let it be a reminder that there is more work to do, and more chains remain to be broken before we are all truly free.  


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About the Author

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Mallory Mishler is a Michigander, studying Women’s and Gender Studies and Peace and Justice. She is passionate about using her voice to advocate for the freedom of all people, especially through creative mediums. When not writing, she can be found climbing mountains, caring for her plants, or painting on things that shouldn’t be painted.