While the United States is indeed an independent, sovereign nation with clearly defined borders and both economic and military resources beyond those of any other country, it’s hard for us to answer in the absolute affirmative this July 4 if faced with the question: do we feel absolutely secure, at ease and independent from all else and all others?
Compared to 1776, a time when, for sure, nations traded and feuded just as they do today, we live in a century where it is all too plainly evident that even the most robust sense of political independence can buckle and bend.
The butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the planet, a hurricane blowing on the other concept seems to apply. We seem to be especially vulnerable of late to forces beyond the control of even are highest elected leaders. The soaring price of oil is a case in point; inflation and the tumbling of property and stock values are others.
While as a nation we can adopt measures and policies that might go some way to quelling the negative tide, the ability of the United States to call a halt to undesirable events, and then actually secure one, has rarely been in such question.
Perhaps it was never present to begin with. But there were certainly periods in the past when we did feel more secure, more optimistic, better able to shape our nation’s destiny, more, yes, independent.
The unraveling of that feeling can be traced in significant part to 9/11. Our independence was violated that day in the cruelest way. We fought back, of course, and we continue to do so.
This July 4, as we celebrate with all the star spangled trimmings, we will turn our thoughts to those in the front lines far from home who, in a very real sense, are standing guard on the outer ring of America’s independence.
But we have to ask ourselves if all, or much, of their effort is for naught or little if the independence they are defending, the kind of independence that allows Americans to live without fear and stride boldly into the future, isn’t being compromised by forces immune to military might.
Independence is what we desire, interdependence is something we understand, dependence is something we can accept, though for the most part in certain, specific, contexts.
A dependence that makes us feel vulnerable and unsafe is not something that we want for ourselves or our children. Between now and next July 4 we will be asked to consider arguments and issues and ultimately vote on them.
As we do so we should contemplate 1776 because 2008 is, lately, a year when the idea of national independence, in the purest sense of the term, seems as much under threat as it was in that fateful year of our first Independence Day.
We have so much to be thankful for but we can ill afford to take it all for granted. This July 4, we should push our political differences to one side, take a moment to consider the state of our independence now, and what it might look like in the future.