Independence Day, the 4th of July, let freedom ring – but are we ‘free at last?’ Today is a day that means a lot to Americans, or at least it should. In many other countries, especially African countries, independence days receive more than just one day and have celebrations that take over weeks. Here we celebrate with fireworks, family get togethers, remembering the troops, community events, and other random events set for just one day. Independence Day is something we have come to take for granted. We know that we are independent and ‘free,’ but we do not really understand what that means. We shoot off fireworks, blasting explosions in the sky, shaking our bodies – but what we do not realize is that ‘bombs bursting in air’ means something completely different to the rest of the world. Explosions, bursts of light do not represent independence in many places – these are signs of danger and create fear. A rocket’s red glare has a frightening consequence and that does not end often in freedom. I began really thinking about how people from other parts of the world would view our independence day when I attended the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Maine the summer of 2003.
The camp brought together teens from areas of conflict to learn dialogue and conflict resolution and more importantly learn that kids on the other side of the conflict were just like them. It was an amazing experience and helped to set my future path studying international relations. While I was there the 4th of July happened and there was a worry that the booms and explosions from the fireworks might frighten or panic some of the campers during the night. This is when I became aware of the fact that while we enjoy setting off fireworks for fun, independence is not so fun in other parts of the world and, sadly, independence is not for everyone to enjoy.
Since I just returned from Ghana I can say that there were huge celebrations for Ghanaian independence, the first African country to gain independence from their European colonizers, Britiain. They had month long celebrations since it was their 50th anniversay of gaining independence and even while I was there three months after the celebrations, events to celebrate independence were still happening. Ghana is independent, but right after their independence not everyone was free. There was political, economic, and social troubles before Ghana reached its relatively stable situation today. I wonder if the US ever had this problem? Or have we even tackled this problem? We are independent from our ‘homeland,’ but does everyone have freedom. Is independence synonomous with freedom? We are free in the sense of George Washington and the founding fathers, but we are not free in the sense of Martin Luther King Jr. – the price of freedom is often talked about, but do we truly understand its full meaning? The price of freedom is at your doorstep and within your own self. What do you appreciate about being free?