“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
[one_half padding=”4px 10px 0 4px”]I anticipate a lot of talk this week about Independence and what it means. There will be a lot of flag waving, a lot of history (heavily slanted to match one’s opinions), and a lot of chest thumping on the part of Americans. All that is well and good, I suppose. We’re coming into this week all riled up because of everything that happened last week and it probably does us well to take some time and really look at our heritage, the good, the bad, and everything in between. While I’m not sure an honest assessment has ever been possible (the victor writes the history books), to understand why our country was founded and the conditions for that declaration on July 4, 1776 is an obligation we have as citizens. If there’s one thing on which our country is largely united, it is that our Independence is well worth celebrating.
Plus, we really like to blow stuff up. I mean, we REALLY like to blow stuff up. The bigger, the brighter, the louder, the better. I don’t know how it is where you live, but my neighbors have already started, much to my chagrin. I’m an early riser. These posts don’t write themselves, after all. Being that by 4:30 AM I’m usually up and slinging various curses at whatever piece of furniture upon which I’ve stubbed a toe, I typically can’t help falling asleep around 10:00 each evening. This week, however, my neighbors have taken to random acts of patriotic celebration just a wee bit early. Their timing is perfect; just as I’m about to doze off, BOOM! Blowing stuff up is a time-honored means of celebrating our country’s Independence. Folks get upset when one complains.
We also like to take this time to brag about how great America is and tout all our accomplishments over the past 239 years. Nothing wrong with that, either, though one might argue that the list is getting shorter rather than longer. As the world changes, military and economic powers inevitably come and go in terms of superiority and influence. We do well to be proud of our country, but should be cautious that we don’t allow that pride to blind us to our own shortcomings and the need for continued progress on more issues than I have space to list here. Flying an American flag means little when beneath that flag there are still people starving, homeless, and relegated to second-class citizenship for any reason.[/one_half]
[one_half_last padding=”4px 4px 0 10px”]Independence is more than just a national thing, though, and if we’re going to celebrate it we should look as much at the individual side of that word. Personal independence, to not be under the influence or reliant upon external entities of any kind, is something many of us tout, but few actually have. Those who do are often labeled as troublemakers because they don’t follow along blindly with the group, or loners because they don’t have the need to be constantly surrounded by people who agree with them. Independent women, especially, are likely to be insulted, referred to in unkind terms, and outcasts from male-dominated portions of society. She may even be told that she is violating the tenets of her religion. If that woman happens to be a person of color, her independence is likely critical to her survival but be sure she will be criticized at every step for expressing that independence.
By now you are likely asking what any of this has to do with today’s photo. Provocative, isn’t it? I chose this picture because if there is one place where personal independence has exploded it is with our sexuality. We have gone beyond occasional expressions of one inclination or another to fully embracing who we are, who we choose to love, and how we choose to express that love. We have also tossed out the window the reliance on old stereotypes and are beginning to let who and what we are in the bedroom extend to more of our lives outside that space. Look at the picture and you see a young woman who is very much in charge of the moment, exercising her independence in a very personal way.
Personal independence takes many different forms and what is appropriate and necessary for one may not fit another. Independence for a child is being able to go to the restroom on their own. Independence for the elderly may be caring for themselves in their own home. Independence for a wounded warrior may be the ability to stand on prosthetic legs after losing theirs to an improvised exploding device. Independence is being able to exercise the right to vote without unnecessary rules getting in the way. Independence is being able to proudly say I am who I am and no one can tell me to be different. This is the independence worth celebrating. Fireworks optional.[/one_half_last]