Amblin' Alameda: July 4, 2014

Amblin' Alameda: July 4, 2014

Morton Chalfy

Independence Day! This is one of the most meaningful days of the year to me, even if the fog obscured most of the fireworks. The day forces consideration of several big topics, with freedom foremost among them - personal, national and global.

America - that is, the United States - is the modern fountain of freedom in the world. America is the place where first Europe and then, the rest of the world, came to find freedom, to practice freedom and to build a free society. It is as the hotbed of freedom that my country earns my patriotism.

Of course, many in America are descended from ancestors who were brought here as slaves in a remarkably brutal and inhumane system. That is an enduring shame for our country and our society and one we are not very close to expiating. There are many signs pointing to less bias and more tolerance among our current school population, and that is to be applauded. But widespread anti-immigration sentiment shows that hatred of others who look or sound different from "us" is still alive and evilly flourishing.

Still, freedom is no small achievement, however many nasty things grow from turning evil and greedy people loose in a free society. Europe, the birthplace of the desire for freedom, repressed all but the ruling classes and gave the first immigrants the impetus to come to America. With freedom they were willing to undergo any hardship, including hardships that would have seemed terrible in the societies they escaped. But the escape was the point. The ability to rely on oneself for sustenance and security contrasted positively to a life circumscribed by rules designed to keep everyone in their natal position.

When the future could be no better than the present, hope and optimism are drained from life. When hard work can achieve a decent life for oneself and one's family, hope and optimism are the fuel that provides the energy for the work.

I appreciate the boon of freedom. The desire is born in us all, I think, but where and when we are born often determines how are lives are lived. In the land of freedom we can take over that determination ourselves, and that makes all the difference. Freedom, like democracy, can be established, but it then must be tended and looked after and kept safe from those who would undermine it. Freedom is the very bedrock of the American experience.

Even for those most severely harmed by America - blacks, Native Americans, people of color in general - freedom offers a way out. The path is long, but the civil battlefields (the courts) are available, and even when the judicial deck is stacked against you the battle doesn't have to end.

We did pass the Civil Rights Act and we have begun making amends to the Native Americans. Too little, nearly too late, but progress continues, the forums for action are open and the new generations have learned more of the lessons. Freedom should be the birthright of every human. The obligation to continue working toward that end is incumbent upon all of us who enjoy the perquisites of freedom.

It does seem like a movement that will sweep the world, but in any country at any time freedom needs to be tended and jealously guarded. Hopefully the "rockets red glare" will illuminate the ongoing struggle and give hope to all who strive for freedom today.