I start with an apology.
I try to have a truly global outlook and consciously work hard not to let any specific geographic, national or other bias overtly skew my rambling.
But I am contemplating the July 4th day off as I sit in New York this week and -- full confession -- like many, I also take part in the giant sale-a-thon that Independence Day has become in the United States. But I have also made it a habit to at least write about what the day should mean, was meant to symbolize or perhaps more accurately, what I take from it myself... ergo, I apologize but ask your indulgence.
As July 4th comes around every year, I always get a fierce in-my-gut and passionate belief that basic rights -- as defined by the Declaration of Independence of the-then new United States -- are universal: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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."
Think about the notion and read the news -- then apply the concept -- equal rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." WOW.
Even today after 200-plus years, the idea seems somehow radical. And I say radical because even in the U.S. where it was written, it has yet to assume its full and unadulterated meaning.
The right to life -- you can't just come and kill me; the right to happiness -- you can't just come and tell me I can't listen to music or see a movie or read what I'd like or hang out with my friends -- whoever they may be....
And then there is liberty, and here is where I think it gets really interesting. What is liberty? Liberty to do what? Some might read this darkly and in fact do, as in liberty to do whatever they think is right...damn everyone else. Others might read it less darkly but no less chaotically, as in no laws, regulations or rule. And some see it as handholding and singing sweet songs -- not bad, but not nearly strong enough -- in my opinion.
Here is how I have come to view it: Liberty is the right to be successful; the right to fulfill your potential; the right to accomplish your potential.
A Portuguese poet by the name of Fernando Pessoa disagreed. He believed that success was only defined if you were actually accomplished in some way: "Success consists in being successful, not in having potential for success. Any wide piece of ground is the potential site of a palace, but there's no palace till it's built."
Frankly, I fundamentally disagree... and this is where liberty comes in.
Think about how many people around the world are not even given access to that wide piece of ground, let alone have the tools and materials to build a palace.
Think about how many people around the world there are for whom success is just getting through another day.
And, think about how many people around the world have not the slightest potential for success because they worry for their lives and have no access to happiness.
And here is where liberty comes in -- because liberty, as I see it, is the right to have that piece of land and build a palace if I want, or a playground, or just sit on it and enjoy the weather if I so choose.
Liberty is the right to live as I choose and where I choose, worship as I like, dress as I'm comfortable and read what I want. Basic rights sadly lacking in way too many places in our world.
And I do believe -- my gut-felt passion again -- that the writers of the Declaration of Independence of the United States meant for liberty to be an obligation on all of us to make sure that we provide the rights to Life and Happiness to all -- not just to ourselves.
"Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."
-- Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791
All it asks and all it wants is the liberty of appearing -- the liberty to achieve the potential that is ours -- the liberty to think. And this was written over 200 years ago and still resonates.
This is our obligation. Help it appear. Tear down the fences to that piece of ground and let freedom ring.
And thank you for indulging my celebration of July 4th... now I can prepare the BBQ....
What do you think?
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