Each year, in the name of independence and freedom, I eat a burger, probably some chips, ohh definitely fruit salad and I enjoy fireworks. Ideally, I do this all beside the ocean or a lake among family and friends.
This year, I'm avoiding the masses, and thus Lake Michigan, as Adrian and I are hosting a bbq in the backyard, complete with patriotic cupcakes. (Check back later for those!)
And each year as I celebrate, we enjoy our freedom, without batting an eye. I think, perhaps, having been raised in communities, in states, in this country and within the families we have been so graciously blessed with, we fail to recognize that truly, freedom is a privilege. That is not to say that I believe it ought to be. I most certainly do not. I believe it ought to be an inherent right, something bestowed upon us at birth for the simple fact of having been born.
Unfortunately, I don't think this is the case for all of us.
Ironically, perhaps, this year I will be celebrating independence and freedom in a neighborhood which houses many undocumented immigrants. And we will celebrate within a country where, though we rely on their labor and their taxes (which, btw, my friends do in fact pay each year), we refuse to acknowledge them as contributors to the community.
By mere chance, I was born in this country to a middle class family in a rural town. Thus I am privileged. I never worried about food appearing on the table. Or whether I'd have shoes, which thankfully I did and have come to love. Nor did I worry about my father packing up to move to another country to have the means to put food on aforementioned table in his absence. I, indeed, have been privileged.
And while I acknowledge that I have been privileged, I must also acknowledge that others have not. I live in one of the wealthiest, most advanced countries in the world, in a time where most anything is possible. A time where you truly can be most anything you want with a bit of work and, perhaps, connections. And I am afforded those dreams, opportunities and connections because I was born into it. Not by anything that I've done, but because of the location and circumstance of my birth.
Where I have been granted freedom by my circumstance and thus am required to nothing to neither deserve it nor preserve it, others must prove themselves worthy. Rarely have I met any undocumented person who deserves citizenship any less than I do. Often I find the very opposite.
In a country full of resources, even in the midst of a recession, I often wonder how it could be that we are without the resources to grant those who have not been born to privilege and who work much harder than me for it, the freedom to work and contribute without the consequent fear and hiding. Perhaps if we, the people, and the lawmakers personally knew a few more of these immigrants, we might come to admire their work ethic and their refusal to give in, to fatigue, to failure, to the powers that be. The ones I know work long (and often odd) hours in physically grueling work that I would never deign to do, while still finding the time and energy, miraculously, to come to English classes. Often after an overnight shift. I tire after just teaching them for four hours a day.
So on this, the fourth of July, my friends, my students, they celebrate a country that, perhaps begrudgingly and often unwillingly, presents them the opportunity to do the one thing they always hoped to do: put food on the table and offer their children something better than what they've survived.
After the fireworks have burnt out and the hamburgers and hotdogs have been eaten, is there nothing more quintessentially fourth of July than the hope of freedom for a better future?
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Happy 4th, my friends. To those born into freedom and to those who still yearn for it.