It appeared that these folks we saw were stuck in a time warp. I’ve been pondering why haven’t they moved on with their lives? Or maybe more correctly: Why haven’t they moved on with their dreams?
Do we still need people marching around with peace signs?
I’ve concluded that we do, because it challenges us to look at the ideal versus reality, peace versus independence.
With the Fourth of July heralding the celebration of “independence,” an historical look at the root of this celebration is the fight for freedom. The history of our country’s beginning is embedded with the struggle for the freedom of religion. Along with that came the move for independence from the governing fatherland of England. This all came at a price.
Human lives were lost in the initial battles and continued to be lost as this country was “settled." Our independence and freedom from one source turned to fighting from coast to coast with the Native Americans (as the infighting among the tribes continued), and along the border with the French and the Spanish (as foreign countries raced to stake their claims on the newly charted world).
As I peel back the pages of history, one country moves to be independent from another, and on and on it goes. Sometimes the basis of the struggle is centuries old, but still being fought without resolution. Or the struggle continues even after there appears to be some resolution or signed document that calls for the conflict to an end.
For those who use the Bible to give some insight into the history of the world, the inevitable primary struggle for independence happened in the Garden of Eden. Given the peaceful environment of Eden, Adam and Eve were not content with what was given to them or with the instructions regarding their behavior. Their discontent led to their downfall and loss of a peaceful environment. From there on throughout this biblical perspective on history, peace was never attained again.
In the name of religion and territorial rights, groups around the world continue to battle with each other to achieve their own independence.
The human brain is embedded with a primal “fight or flight” mechanism that is tied to survival of the species. When a perceived threat occurs, we survive by fighting against the threat or running away. The adrenalin that is triggered by this response allows humans to perform extraordinary feats. Weekly news broadcasts cover heroic events fueled by our instinctual desire to survive.
To dismay of peace-seeking parents, they may observe in their younger children the kicking, hitting or fashioning of weapons out of anything at hand. In elementary years, boys become more physical with each other and girls attack with their verbiage. Eventually, a pecking order is determined, and either in groups or as individuals they achieve their identities among their peers.
Emotionally healthy children achieve their independence from their parents after struggling to define themselves apart from their parents. This is a task that can be accomplished with various levels of angst. After successfully defining ourselves as individuals, we can be more open and accepting of the parents we came from and so on back through history. We are all a part of that which came before us. Throughout the history of the world is the fight for freedom among those who desire to be independent and chart their own course.
As thousands of immigrants are moved to the United States from foreign refugee camps, many dream of becoming a U.S. citizen. The freedom to have choices and be self-determining is seen as a wonderful environment to live in and one they never saw in the countries they leave behind. As Neil Diamond sings: “They’ve got a dream they’ve come to share, they’re coming to America!”
And herein lays the problem. Whose dream prevails? The desire for freedom and to follow one's dreams leads to an inner tension as the differing beliefs, cultures and values face off against one another.
The Fourth of July, Independence Day, calls us to rally around the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence, which is the longest-surviving national constitution. Within a democracy, the majority rules in determining the decisions that come before it. This protects a democracy from splitting within itself. If we hold to the tenants of democracy and the Declaration of Independence, we might be able to keep fighting for freedom and independence against the enemy without and not the enemy within.
Janice Beuschel can be contacted at her website, janicerbeuschel.com.