Today in the U.S. we celebrate Independence Day, the day our founders (men and women, though it was the men who scripted the document because god forbid there be women in the room when they're talking about liberation) signed the Declaration of Independence.
It's hard, in these scary global times and under this particular presidential administration, to be a patriot in the United States, especially if one is well-read and well-informed--which far too few Americans are. But for the particular freedoms (eroded as they recently have been) granted to us with the Bill of Rights appended to the Constitution, I am grateful (and particularly for those granting us freedom of speech, assembly, and religion*). By being born when and where and to whom I was, I truly won, as Warren Buffett has called it, "the ovarian lottery."
And so today, while I could (so very) easily pen a tirade against the current administration and rant about the myriad injustices within the country today, I'm going to just say thank you to the founding mothers and fathers and to all those who have fought (mostly in unarmed conflicts, I might add, in our civil rights and suffrage movements) for our freedoms, and share this little story, which some Americans may have heard but which I'm guessing is largely unknown to my international readers. It's one of my favorites.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were co-conspirators in the American Revolution against Britain, but beginning with the election of 1796, when Adams defeated Jefferson for the presidency by three electoral votes, and throughout the Jefferson presidency that began in 1800 (when Jefferson defeated Adams), their differences of vision for the new republic turned them into political enemies. A dozen years later, however, they reconciled and became friends, albeit ones with some geographical distance between them—Jefferson lived in Virginia and Adams in Massachusetts.
On July 4, 1826, the nation was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its declaration of independence. Both Jefferson and Adams (who was 7 years Jefferson's senior yet who had during their contentious years vowed to outlive Jefferson) lay on their deathbeds. Unbeknownst to Adams, Jefferson expired first. When Adams died later that afternoon, his last words were "Jefferson still lives."
For that--for the fact that Jefferson's doctrines upholding the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness survive--I am grateful.
* and I am especially grateful this has been interpreted as freedom from religion as well, especially considering the ascendancy in the past 20 years in this country of a particular brand of Christian who would deny us those freedoms at the very same time as they claim we are denying them their right to worship as they please.