I guess independence can be defined a few ways. The most well-known definition, of course, correlates independence with freedom. Freedom from rule, from customs, from taxes, from whatever citizens regard as impeding on humans’ natural rights. Freedom from tyranny, mostly.
The definition I like most has more to do with thinking and acting independently. Independent from the influences of others. I am fascinated with the idea of free thinking and taking a course of action that is not normal. Or, at least what society deems as normal.
Independent thinking, of course, is facilitated by independence (freedom). The freedom we all enjoy in this society allows each of us to be free thinkers and take action. Whether that thinking results in protesting our government or the action we take is entrepreneurial, we are free to think and act as we please without fear of consequence.
I grew up in Birome, Texas. A cotton ginner’s son, I studied, worked, and played in right-wing America. My parents and their friends lived an entirely agricultural lifestyle. We planted, harvested, ginned, and ranched our way through life. We utilized questionable labor, spoke English, bore arms, and voted a straight Republican ballot. My high school, where I graduated with 19 other students, said the Pledge of Allegiance every day and did not hesitate to pray for the deceased, our soldiers, and our 6-man football team.
Then, I graduated and headed for Denton, Texas.
I had been one of the most open-minded students in my school. I contribute that to the fact that we ginned cotton, rather than farmed it (either that, or the traveling I did for motocross races). Though tolerant and accepting, my first semester at the University of North Texas was non-stop culture shock. There were no prayers on campus, only people of different religions arguing with each other or with those who do not believe in religion, God, or anything else. Here, there were people of different religions, political views, sexual preferences, and life views.
I remember a day, while covering a war protest for the North Texas Daily, when hundreds of students protested the war by walking the roads that bordered campus. While the hundreds marched, four soldiers protested the protest from the other side of the road, walking parallel to the students. I will never forget the sign one of the soldiers had with him: “We Fight So You Can Talk.” It was then that I realized how special our freedom is.
After living in Denton the past four years or so, I’ve opened my mind much more than I had ever thought possible. Republican or Democrat is now a choice – one that can change daily. I understand that no one religion could possibly be the answer for every single person. I minored in Spanish.
My core beliefs remain steadfast in my being, and I doubt those ever change. However, I understand core beliefs are as individual as fingerprints and just as hard to change. That is the beauty of independence. The freedom to be independent. Freedom to think and act independently, yet continue to grow as a society.
Happy Independence Day.