Since this is Independence Day, I thought it might be useful to talk about my own independence and how I choose to celebrate it.
I realize, of course, that there is much for which to be grateful in this country. Our system of government, while far from perfect, affords the best opportunities for individual growth and freedom of any in the so-called "civilized" world. We may have wildly divergent opinions regarding how best (or even whether) to level the playing field, but the very fact that we are allowed to debate those differences openly is itself a testimony to the strength of our Constitution.
On a personal level, however, independence represents my own ability to make my way in the world unencumbered by the opinions and attitudes of those who would seek to silence me. An explanation follows:
As a youngster, I was encouraged by my parents to think for myself. The fact that my thinking was often incorrect really wasn't a deterrent. Mom was always there to keep my spiritual feet under me, and Dad made it perfectly clear that there weren't wrong answers (except for "No, Dad, I didn't mow the lawn...") to any of the philosophical questions he often posed. He allowed me to hold an idea, even when he probably knew that somewhere downstream I would change my position on that idea. He realized all too well that so many of our perceptions change with time and experience. Most of my perceptions have changed over the years, and it turns out that at the age of 21, when I was pretty sure that I was right about many things, I was actually wrong about most things. Ah, well.
Today I am not so arrogant as to believe that I am truly correct in most of my thinking. My perceptions drive me in certain directions, and only time will tell whether those perceptions were themselves correct. The fact that I give voice to my perceptions makes me an active participant in life. It confirms the idea that I am a citizen of this country, a neighbor to many, and a friend to some. It also means that some, strictly on the basis of my opinions, may consider me to be an enemy. Or, at the very least, an annoyance.
One may feel that writing one's opinions in a somewhat public forum is really just asking for it, but that's not the point. I write because I do feel that, however miniscule, there is value to my opinion. Perhaps this value does not extend beyond my family and a few bloglurkers who actually read these memes of mine. According to the TTLB, my own circle of influence in the blogosphere is limited. My personal worth, however, has little to do with the ecosystem.
I do not claim independence from my family or my religious beliefs. On the contrary, I am completely dependent on those things for my personal safety and happiness. My family is mine eternally, and my religion makes that possible. As long as I have those enablers in my life, I am complete.
I still have a long way to go. Whether in this life or the next, my value can only increase. This assumes, of course, that I manage not to do something incredibly unintelligent when those opportunities present themselves. Even at that, I can make corrections and forge ahead. I can do that independent of any other outside influence, and that (he says, finally arriving at his point) is why I celebrate a personal Independence Day.
ASIDE: To answer Dave of Dave's Mormon Inquiry: The Bear Flag League is a loose association of conservative-minded bloggers who live in (or have lived in) California. Think of it as a caucus without all the corn fields and pig farms. I may get letters from Iowa for that...