Thoughts on independence
Jul 03, 2013 | 4539 views | 0 0 comments | 285 285 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In many ways, Independence Day has become synonymous with summer. It’s a long weekend of celebrations: parades, floats, craft fairs, barbecues, and the like.

But are there still reasons to consider why we as a country celebrate our independence on the fourth day of July every year? What does independence mean today? Are there still struggles worth fighting for?

Although they may not be on everyone’s radar screens this weekend, there are two very important issues currently making headlines in our country that are worth considering. They indicate just how far our country has come in 237 years since independence was first declared.

Last week the United States Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions that will prove, over time, to significantly expand rights and benefits for same-sex couples who choose to marry. By striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, the court showed how flawed DOMA is, and how far the country has come in understanding that same-sex partners deserve equal protection under the law. The court majority also let stand a lower court decision voiding California’s Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriage in that state. The court’s decisions continue the expansion of civil liberties seen throughout the history of the country, dating back to the original Bill of Rights.

The other issue is the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between Edward Snowden and the US government. Snowden is the former contractor to the National Security Agency who has taken confidential, classified information and made it public, exposing some dubious actions by our government’s security agencies. Some of those actions include wire tapping and data gathering on a massive scale, something that many see as an affront to individual rights to privacy.

The issue with Snowden, in many ways, boils down to the age-old conflict between national security and individual liberty. Is what he has done a public service, by exposing questionable actions by the US government? Or is it a threat to stable society, by giving our enemies access to information and methods the government is using to fight terrorism?

In other words, is it worth giving up some of our individual independence for increased security?

In the Snowden case, many will see him as a traitor, someone who purposefully made public valuable information that may put our country’s security at risk. Others will see him as a hero who exposed abuse by the United States government, someone who exposed illegal spying on a scale never before seen. Whistleblowers have never been especially revered in this country, even when they unearth the most despicable of actions. But they serve a very important purpose, exposing wrongdoing by individuals, businesses, or government.

In both of these instances, we see individuals or minority groups fighting against overwhelming odds, fighting for something they feel is right. Many may not agree with the initial actions, or the outcomes. But throughout the history of this country, many have pursued a path outside the acceptable norms of the day to right a perceived wrong: individual rights, women’s right, voter rights, civil rights, and more.

That is the essence of Independence Day. In earlier days, it was a war to extricate the colonies from Great Britain. Now the struggles tend to be individual or smaller in scale, but often the outcomes have far-reaching ramifications. Those are the struggles worth honoring as we celebrate Independence Day this weekend.
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