Yep: you guessed it. This will be an Independence Day post.
I did a quick scan of "breaking news" in the USA, just to see where we are in "Independence" today. Browsing the top American news sources gave little more than fluff and news on celebrities. Then, I screenshot a quick glance at another news source that, at least in my naivete, takes few if any cues from the powers-that-be in US news spinners:
"US Navy Yard on Lockdown after Shooting Reported Inside," "NSA's XKEYSCORE Spy Program is as Easy as Typing a Few Words in Google," "Pentagon's New Military Strategy Calls for Preserving US Dominion of the World," "Hilary Clinton Rakes in More than $45mn in First Quarter," "Baltimore to Install Recording Cameras in All Police Vans after Freddie Gray Death," "Mass Evacuations in Tennessee after Train Crash Releases Toxic Fumes," "Little Girl with Rainbow Flag vs. Christian Activist," "35% of Americans would Consider Leaving US--Study Shows," "Tweet of $75k Stash in Passenger's Bag Lands TSA in Hot Water Again," "Armada of Deadly Man O' Wars Threatens Jersey Shore," "Obama Admin. to Block New Redskins Stadium over Team Name," "Oregon Legalizes Marijuana: 5 Things to Know"; and, I bet if one were to click the "more" button, next on the list would be something about more shark attacks reported on coast of the Carolinas.
INDEPENDENCE: "In-" meaning "not, opposite of"; "-dependence" from roots encapsulating "an action growing out of another action" to a breakdown of the word itself: "de-" meaning "from, down"; "pendere" meaning "to hang, be suspended." Etymology is like a Russian doll of layered meanings within the simplest of words. Suffice it to say that "Independence" could mean "the opposite of being hamstrung," or maybe a less inflammatory way to put it is to say "the opposite of being bound in both conscience and action by the conscience and action of another."
The Founding Fathers varied in their theological and philosophical views. I'm no historian, nor am I a philosopher; but, I can imagine Voltaire's sentence here capturing a bit of the spirit of those crafting this experiment we're living now, called a Republic: "Liberty then is only and can be only the power to do what one will." I think "liberty" and "independence" are interchangeable; but, in the world of philosophy, I'm sure I'm very wrong. Regardless, we remember Patrick Henry's statement: "...give me liberty or give me death."
Meet the Republic--238 years, 11 months, and 28 days later. We're on high alert in every major city in America on this of all weekends! We have established the National Security Agency, which exists solely to home in on and monitor what each and every "man" is currently doing with his or her "self-evident," "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," given by "their Creator"; indeed, so that "Governments...instituted among men," which "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed" probably deem their actions Constitutional in as much as they try to "secure these rights." Yet, the extent of that security is only in the institution of a government. The NSA makes headlines because government overstepped. What government doesn't?
The headlines above call into question whether our Republic is providing for "the common defense and general welfare of the United States" or has overstepped in pursuit of other interests. Some other questions: Why do presidential candidates, elected by electoral votes, raise untold amounts to fund a campaign of public opinion when the populace focus and voice rest within the election of their representatives and senators--1/3 of the triangulated, balanced power of our government; Why does the Constitutional guarantee to every state of protection "against domestic violence" now entail cameras in vehicles to watch the very agents sworn to uphold this very Constitution; How is one's religious beliefs able to conflict with the way government upholds the Constitution; If the poll is correct, why would 35% of American citizens want to leave the Republic; Why is there a US Government presence at each and every portal of public travel; Why aren't state governments handling the business of local sports arenas?
There is a lot right with America. There is a lot wrong with America. Right and wrong, I'm afraid, are in the eye of the beholder. To protect our right to freely behold, beholders institute a government of beholders with powers derived from the consent of those governed--other beholders. The Republic comes with three guarantees in theory: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A Republic of beholders organizes itself, and thereby limits itself, to protecting a beholder's right to live alongside other beholders who also have the right to live; to protecting a beholder's right to not be bound by other beholders' beholding, as long as that boundlessness doesn't interfere with the right for others to behold; and, to allow beholders to revel in their beholding, limited only when that beholding prohibits another's right to behold.
This is hard. This is hard because we beholders want others to behold the way we behold. We want others to see as we see, to think as we think, to act as we act, so that we will maximize our happiness. More is always the goal. That's nature's way.
Our gospel story, however, turns the scope of our beholding exactly where, I believe, Jesus taught us it was always meant to be. We have the Golden Rule, the Great Commandment, and many parables, like that of splinters and planks, as clues. Voltaire's statement above--independent of religion but wrought truth maybe--beholds through a similar scope.
As for me, I wish for you a happy, lively Fourth of July; and, I do so thankful that I have the power to exercise this idea!