Happy Fourth! Getting Past Independence-Worship

By Sunday, June 29, 2014 8 0

Happy Fourth of July! Those of us in the U.S. have a three-day weekend coming up — how shall we celebrate our nation’s birthday? Ideas below, but first a couple of thoughts on independence.

Why not celebrate the interdependence of all nations on the Fourth?

Given that the U.S. is now 238 years old, I think we are old enough to move past the glorification of independence. Teenagers, also known as adolescents,  are obsessed with independence — including me back when I was a teenager. Heaven only knows how my parents put up with me.

It’s a normal stage of development, for both people and nations. The downside of independence-worship is that it’s self-centered. The focus of independence is all on self, with no awareness of how you impact others. Hence the epic suffering of parents of teenagers.

On the international level, hence the epic suffering induced by climate change, which is driven by fossil-fueled overconsumption.   We in the U.S. are 4% of the world’s population, consuming 25% of its resources. 

Teenagers who grow up move on from independence, which focuses on self, to interdependence, which focuses on all concerned,  without neglecting the self. I’d love to see our nation move from the developmental stage of independence on to interdependence. If we understood we are interdependent, we’d address climate change by consuming less and controlling our emissions. 

We can all be leaders via our choices. Here are ideas for celebrating the 4th of July weekend, based on the idea of interdepence, i.e. we all impact each other and the world with everything we do.

Earth Flag by Anke Hartmanns of Germany

1. Embrace the outdoors, letting go of TV and electronic entertainment. Summer weather is too precious to be sitting indoors. Get outdoors, instead: walk and bike, throw Frisbees and softballs around, run through sprinklers; take nature hikes; play volleyball, soccer or croquet. Besides, no TV constitutes a great diet.

2. Have people over. Don’t be perfectionistic about what this looks like. People need our interest and our warmth, not our shiny surfaces. See top ten tips for hosting people. The single biggest predictor of happiness is the quality of our relationships with others. The fourth of July weekend is a good time to build our relationships.

3. Read a good book, and talk about it with others. The founding fathers who wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution read a lot of good books. Let’s emulate them. Use the library if needed: your taxpayer dollars at work. Two of my favorite reads are Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer and Eric Brende’s Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology. These books show people living rich, joyful lives of interdependence.

4. Go to church. The beauty of worship, to me, is in getting past details of dogma and simply being part of something much greater than ourselves, a Creation guided by love. Another great thing about church is that people of all ages come together, from inf inter-generational community it fosters. If you’re on the political left, don’t reject religion just because the political right has made it appear conservative. Take a look at my Confession: I Love Church.

5. Make your own food instead of buying pre-packaged food. Sure, it takes more time, but that’s what three-day weekends give us a rich supply of. Apple pies are American, so bake one. If you are pie-crust-challenged like me, make a fruit cobbler (sweetly forgiving by nature).

6. Better yet, grow your own food: get out in the garden. It’s highly patriotic to nurture the land we’re living on, and to not just depend on corporate agriculture to feed us. As I write, our blueberries need to be picked again, and if you were to show up at my front door, I would have blueberries from our bushes to share with you. If I’m not home, feel free to pick some for yourself. Remember that working in the front garden makes us available for some great chats with neighbors.

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  • greenpowerguy
    June 30, 2014

    Great post! I’ll be over for some of those blueberries.

    • Alison
      July 1, 2014

      Ha! A sure bet, given that you live with me, babe. I’ll kiss any blueberry juice off of your mouth.

  • JohnnyK
    July 2, 2014

    Reading this article I’m not sure you understand the reason for the celebration of Independence day. It’s not about being an independent country as much as it is a tribute to those that sacrificed their life so that we could be free. You’re reading too much into the name of the holiday and not looking at the reasons behind the holiday in the first place.

    • Alison
      July 4, 2014

      Johnny, I respect your thoughts. I also respect those who sacrificed their lives so we could be free. I think that Memorial Day is the holiday that was created specifically for that purpose.

      • JohnnyK
        July 4, 2014

        Memorial Day is to remember those that sacrificed their lives but without Independence day we would not remember why we are free. Where all this started. This is why we celebrate these holidays to remind the next generation of what it took to be the country we are so that this country stays great.This day celebrates our declaration of independence and that should never be taken away but if we just stop celebrating it then it will be a forgotten document buried in our past somewhere and when we forget our past then we are sure to relive it. I for one do not want to live under such ternary as the British government was. Out of all the holidays to cancel I don’t think this would be a good one to cancel. This has nothing to do with adolescence bet everything to do with knowing the foundation of our great country that should never be forgotten.

        • Alison
          July 4, 2014

          Johnny, I’m absolutely with you: our freedom deserves to be celebrated, not forgotten or taken for granted. I don’t want to live under tyranny, and I don’t know anyone who does.

          I’m not suggesting any cancellation of the Fourth of July. What I’m suggesting in this post is the idea that a nation’s evolution does not stop with independence, or with celebrating independence. The nature of the earth and the climate that all humans share with each other, and with all other species, is interdependence. Everything we do affects everything else, in the long run and often also in the short run. When we understand that, we live differently, we consume more carefully, than when we don’t understand that.

          I wish that more people were as mindful of the value of political freedom as you are, especially as millions of fireworks get set off tonight. I somehow feel the true spirit of this holiday (and a number of holidays) gets forgotten in our national frenzy of consumption.

  • Chris
    July 5, 2014

    A good read as always. Always great advice to focus on what really matters.

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