I stand tall. I immediately well up with pride. I lose touch with everything going on around me. My vision gazed upon the colors. My ears tuned in. My heart bursts with thankfulness. On most occasions I get goose-bumps. Admittedly, I have shed a tear or two. I think of the hundreds of thousands of men and women that have lost their lives in pursuit and protection of freedom. I highly value those who are currently serving in the military, both here and there. This is what happens to me then I look at the flag of the United States of America. When I stand in allegiance, I feel strong, brave, and free. I am eternally grateful to those who have lost their lives, because I now have the opportunity to live in freedom. Freedom from tyranny and oppression. Freedom from persecution. Freedom from a war-torn society that too many have to live in today. I have the freedom to enjoy my pursuits. As President FDR stated in 1941, “Freedom from want…Freedom from fear.”
I have written on this subject many times before, from many different perspectives. The 4th of July means something different for everyone. Some might reflect upon our history, and how we won our independence from Great Britain to become our own free nation. Others might reflect upon their own personal freedoms they enjoy in America. Still others use this holiday to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain our freedom. But for 2014, I can not help but remove myself from my American-made flip flops and think of those who are currently seeking what we’ve had for the past 238 years.
The debate has raged on for as long as we’ve been a nation. Whether it be freedom from slavery, seeking opportunity through the gates at Ellis Island, or the tens of thousands of South Americans currently seeking freedom by crossing our southern border. Freedom is simply the lack of oppression, in whatever form or fashion you define. As those current migrants have not yet publicly voiced their purpose, I wanted to hear from those who traversed this path long ago. The voices from Ellis Island tell an amazing story of the trials and eventual triumphs of seeking American freedom:
“…they always looked upon you as being not native, you know. They looked down on you, they did. At the beginning they did look down on you.” – Armen Jermakian on “Trying to fit in”
“And, I’ll tell you, if anybody would have said, ‘I’ll give you the money, and you can take the boat back to Denmark,’ I would have done it any day in the week…You hate to think of every time I opened my mouth, they know I’m a foreigner, and I don’t like that.” – Knud Larsen on “Language barriers”
“My father would want us to go to synagogue on the high holy days; and I always went with him…And after that I didn’t care about that. I wanted to be Americanized. I want to be an American, and I want to accept my opportunities and take the, make the most of them. Take advantage of everything that I could learn. And I did just that.” – Charles W. Beller (Kalman Bilchick), on being “Americanized vs. Holding on to cultural traditions”
Of course, there are 12 million stories that could be shared by those who came through Ellis Island. There are countless others throughout our history that have staked their claim to the “American dream”. Obviously, there is something about living within these borders that is desired. We understand that. We live in that. The world has come to us since our shores were discovered long ago. There are not too many that have sought refuge away from the Untied States. I’m not aware of anyone trying to escape the dangers, hostilities, and oppression of America. Why? Because we handle our business. We seek resolution to the problems that we face. Whether that be through protest, petition, and even war, we do what we as a society feel is best to preserve the foundations of freedom. Because despite all the issues, concerns, debates, hostility and anger over our failed immigration laws, there is no better place to live. And the rest of the world knows it.
So here’s my challenge for this Independence Day. Step outside of yourself for a moment and think of those who gave everything to seek the freedom that we all too often take for granted. Release yourself from your American entitled state of mind and put yourself in the shoes, or lack thereof, of those who have crossed oceans and borders with next to nothing for the chance at becoming an American. It will change your perspective.
Forsake your political ties to what is currently happening with our border policies. Forsake your anger towards our government who is bickering like little children and not doing their job. And for a moment, ponder and enjoy the freedom you have.
God bless you! Happy 4th of July!