Independence is work, freedom is a dirty business

By Victor Landa, NewsTaco

Independence is a messy business.

We Americans tend to think that freedom is shiny and sits on a mantle, sparkling it’s virtue. And right next to that idea is the conviction that our particular version of freedom is not only correct, but righteously so. We use it as a slogan for our cause, or sling it in reproach against others who we deem to not measure up to our particular ideal.

Independence is work.

You don’t walk into it as you would a shopping mall. Freedom requires upkeep and vigilance – some people would argue that it requires defense as well, but that conversation quickly dips into the murk of righteousness and reproach, and that’s not what I’m talking about. When I say work I mean the messy toil of living freely, the daily friction and required respect of living among free people. It’s a chore. We don’t always get along, we don’t always agree or get it right. And we argue, loudly. And we fight, sometimes bitterly. And we make mistakes, more often than we care to acknowledge.

But there’s a redeeming quality to our brand of freedom.

American independence is innovative.

It’s innovative precisely because it’s messy. Americans come from every nation on earth, they mix and mingle and their ideas cross-pollinate; energy rubs against energy, it improvises and repurposes, retools and invents. Over and over, rebuilding and reinventing, getting closer and closer to getting it right. No other nation on earth has that quality.

You can cast a pall of cynicism over it, recite your rehearsed litany of societal and political ills. Please do. It adds to the energy of innovation, we need the dissenting voices. In fact, part of the obligation to tend freedom is to make it messy, so we can see what isn’t working.

A few days ago the U.S. Supreme Court took the teeth out of a basic provision of the Voting Rights Act. It was the part of the VRA that designated who the bad actors were when it came to voter suppression. It put the onus on those bad actors to prove their innocence whenever they intended to make a change to voting rules or processes. It’s now up to congress to re-designate who those bad actors are.

Messy business.

But maybe there’s another way to get it done. Maybe there’s a way we haven’t thought of yet, that’ll get us closer to the ideal.

When a State Senator in Texas stood for 11 hours to stop a piece of legislation, it was a messy deal. The way she saw it, rules of procedure set forth for debate were twisted and whittled and she had no further recourse but to take the floor of the Texas House Senate and not let go. And the end of her ordeal was messier still.

It’s been like that for 237 years. And it’ll continue to be that way … until we get it right.

In the mean time, we celebrate the messiness of independence – the invention and innovation of it all. Because every once in a while we do some good. Every once in a while our intention of making the world a better place seeps through the mess and takes root. Every once in a while we do bring peace, or relieve a famine, or conquer a disease, or produce breathtaking art and inspiring feats of human accomplishment.

But it takes work to buff the mess and make it shiny.

Happy independence day.

[Photo by SEIU International]

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