Today is U.S. Independence Day, July 4th, and I am here in Bangkok, Thailand, 8,785 miles away from Annapolis, Maryland (home). Independence day is always a mixed bag of emotions for me. I am a deeply patriotic citizen of the USA, but also highly critical of our domestic and foreign policy. Every Independence Day, I take the time to reflect on the great vision our forefathers and foremothers had in conceiving the Declaration of Independence, and creation of this fine nation. I also reflect on the ways in which that vision was flawed in regards to equal rights for ALL people. I also reflect the ways in which our current society has diverted from that vision, and the ways in which we as a nation impinge on other peoples’ freedoms and independence, and how we continue to deny dignity to our very neighbors at home on the streets of Washington DC, Detroit, Clay County, Kentucky.
For the Rotary Peace Fellowship, sitting in a room full of people representing 11 different nations in Bangkok, Thailand, on Independence Day, I think about the role of the United States in world affairs, and the way in which my country has interacted with other countries – outright violence, war and aggression, to more indirect pressure and silencing. I am grateful for the friends I have made — from Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Canada (and others) — and am hoping that I, and other US citizens, can set an example for our government of what it means to be a true American. Practicing compassion and respect, and truly valuing each other as fellow humans, trying to understand and appreciate differences.
I resurrected this photograph from last year’s July 4th celebration at small beach across Back Creek from Eastport, and downtown Annapolis. To me, the perfect Independence Day celebration would be going sailing in a Rainbow on the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay, followed by a cookout with friends on the beach – watching the fireworks as dusk settles over the city, and then going to a friend’s house where we swim, listen to music, play silly games, and drink beer late into the night. Then the next morning, like a big happy family, we laugh about the night before over a big brunch we all cook together. To me – that is a perfect day.
As citizens of the great USA, may we always check our pride, be respectful of differing opinions, embrace freedom for ALL (even if we disagree with them), and strive to make the world a better place. I hope that one day we all, as citizens of the world, can enjoy freedom from fear, and positive peace for all people.