Happy Independence Day! What do you think of when you think of the United States of America and what independence here stands for? Here's what I think of: the right to live according to your own authentic truth and values, with peace and tolerance for others. I think of the strength that is found precisely in our vast diversity. I think of oppressed peoples fleeing their home nations with exactly this inspiration - to live peaceably according to their values and beliefs.
The current political rhetoric, and indeed now heavy-handed proposed laws are exactly in conflict with these ideals. How can we maintain and celebrate our independence from oppression in this environment? Stay informed, use your voice, there is strength in numbers. Advocate for your values. And, at the micro level- with real people in everyday life. One of the insights gained, both as a therapist and a meditator, is that we are all essentially the same. I am no different, or better, in a fundamental and powerful way, than any of my clients. Or than the homeless man who rang my bell this morning looking for a cup of water and some help, any help. We are so protective and fearful of our little selves, and our protected bubbles. And yet, if we don't use our resources - our voices, our money, our time, our energy - to connect, cherish and protect others, history shows again and again, we will soon fall prey to the same destructive forces that the most vulnerable suffer first.
I know this at an intellectual level. I consider myself a good liberal. But who was it who was open to the homeless man, and kind, and generous? My father - who, based out of his own life experiences does not always land politically in the same place as I. But he was the one who lived his values of respect for diversity and care for those who are weaker or neglected or lacking the safe, selfish bubble. He was the one who smiled, and listened, and gave some water, shade and money.
How is it that we fight the fear, greed and anger that is pervasive in our culture, and maintain our independence from these forces? By living interdependence, openness, generosity and kindness in each moment, as it presents itself. By not sticking within our "party lines," and instead seeing the fundamental sameness in us all.
And by fighting like hell with all we've got against oppression.