I guess I’m in the mood for musing about national holidays. I had some nagging thoughts about Memorial Day this year, and now with the passing of July 4 I find myself reflecting about Independence Day and it meanings. I just can’t seem to simply enjoy a national celebration, some time off, fireworks and burgers on the grill like I used to.
Actually, I love the Fourth of July even more than Memorial Day. It marks the very center of summer, a time when those of us in the far northern states can finally step outside without a jacket and long pants and be reasonable assured that frostbite is not a risk. Like most, I love the notion of freedoms and independence, those twin icons of the United States. I love the stories which chronicle this country’s birth as a new nation. But increasingly, I also long for acknowledgement that alongside our national day of celebration of independence, we might do well to establish one that we might call Dependence Day.
I don’t want to throw cold water on a beloved national holiday. But I also don’t feel right in overlooking how tremendously dependent this nation has been over its history. Our history might be more truly a celebration of dependence than of single-handed success.
Of course, our earliest settlers might never have even had the opportunity to dream of an independent state had it not been for the assistance of Native American populations, who often helped the transplanted Europeans to survive the new climate and landscape. Even in winning the war of independence itself, the U.S. would perhaps never have prevailed in its efforts without the enormous assistance from countries like France, Spain and The Netherlands.
We proudly describe our nation as a “melting pot” of peoples from the widest range of cultures and geographies, in essence building upon the rich customs and heritage of the entire world in our DNA. We cherish traditions in the very fabric of our lives which are almost entirely imported from somewhere else. Oil, that lifeblood of our industrial, military and technology development, has been heavily supplied by other nations. Foreign trade linkages have long been an essential glue to our economy and our security. And it turns out that no matter how independent we may feel, the health of the earth’s environment is impacted by all nations, including ours. And while on the topic of health, we can agree that following the horrifying outbreak of the ebola virus in the past year, we are clearly dependent upon the practices and assistance of other nations when protecting our population.
We have waged war very infrequently (if ever?) by ourselves; the U.S. waged war against its own Indigenous people over the past two centuries, and the war against The Philippines was undertaken alone. But otherwise, the scores of military actions by the U.S. in its history have been fought with the help of others. Even our own Civil War included efforts by France, Germany, Hungary and the U.K. It’s not surprising that nations would not like to go to war alone, both from economic and emotional perspectives.
It turns out that we need lots of help. Arctic ice reflects sunlight and influences ocean currents to help protect the atmosphere and limit severe weather. We import more than $2 trillion worth of goods each year from countries around the world. The earth receives more than 20% of its oxygen from The Amazon rain forest. Of major dependence is our love affair with coffee: Hawaii is the only state which can grow it commercially, and is not even close in supplying our addiction.
I understand the genesis of Independence Day and its meaning to us; I know its importance to me and my life journey, and I am grateful for it each and every day. I also understand that no one makes the journey entirely alone. While we celebrate and give thanks for independence, we do so with a knowing nod of gratitude to those outside the U.S. who helped to make it possible….