As we Americans celebrate Independence Day this year, I reflect on our nation’s history and the state of affairs in the United States and the world today.
I decided to visit www.dictionary.com to review some terms that we Americans use on Independence Day and other holidays that celebrate our nation, flag, service men and women, veterans, and those who gave their lives as members of the military. Having a clearer understanding of the terminology that we use helped me to better understand what the people of our nation expect as American citizens.
Recently, there has been much conversation about the definition of “independence.” Independent (an adjective) means “not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conducts, etc; thinking or acting for oneself.” When the Americans 244 years ago signed a document stating their “independence,” they were referring to the colonies being able to think and act for themselves without control or influence from the British monarchy. That independence has been achieved--we are no longer subject to British rule. That is what we celebrate every year. Is additional independence still something that we desire today or have we had what we want for all of these years and are celebrating its maintenance?
Another word that is used on this holiday is “freedom.” Freedom (a noun) means “a state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.” We recognize that freedom means something different for anyone whose ancestors were not free. My British ancestors came to the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1638, while my German ancestors arrived in Wisconsin in 1851, 1852 and 1894, and my Norwegian ancestors emigrated in 1873 and 1881. My ancestors all arrived in North America as free, white men and women. Fighting to remain free is something that many Americans’ ancestors have done at some time, as some of my ancestors fought for the US in World Wars I and II; however, no Fritsch, Krueger, Pierce, or Larson has ever been “confined” or “restrained.” Simply put, my ancestors were never slaves. If any of my ancestors were slaves, how would that affect my value of freedom? I could never understand. Freedom for all people in the world is imperative.
To validate this, recently, due to COVID-19, the majority of Americans and many people around the world have had their freedom restricted. For fear of the virus, many people chose to confine themselves in their homes. Then, stay at home, safer at home or shelter in place orders by various governments--designed to keep people safe--confined many more. This loss of freedom was not the result of people but rather fear and safety. The result: many people having mental and physical health challenges. See this NIH article regarding the Relationship Between Loneliness, Psychiatric Disorders, and Physical Health?
A word that I hear and see used often today is “coexist.” Coexist (a verb) means “to exist separately or independently but peacefully, often while remaining rivals or adversaries.” I believe that most people who are encouraging coexistence do not intend people who disagree to remain rivals or adversaries. The word they probably mean is “unity.” Unity (a noun) means “the state of being one; oneness of mind, feeling, etc; as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.” As beautiful as this definition is, it is becoming more and more apparent that people in the United States are not united. Many of us have friends and family who we have oneness of mind or feeling with. Even more of us coexist with family members, particularly at holidays (see coexist definition above).
The fact is, our nation’s name is not the United People of America--it is the United States of America. According to dictionary.com, United States of America (a noun) means “a republic in the N Western Hemisphere comprising 48 conterminous states, the District of Columbia, and Alaska in North America, and Hawaii in the N Pacific.” United (an adjective) means “made into or cause to act as a single entity; formed or produced by the uniting of things or persons.” The states together act as a single entity--our nation. The thirteen colonies banded together 244 years ago. The people, even then, were not united. According to this American Revolution article from the Library of Congress: “American opinion was split. Some wanted to declare independence immediately; others hoped for a quick reconciliation. The majority of Americans remained undecided but watching and waiting.”
So, we have successfully found independence; freedom is necessary; coexistence is not what we want; unity is likely unachievable. What is something achievable that we all crave? The answer has been recited in schools around our nation every day for the past several decades. I investigated the history of the pledge of allegiance.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Allegiance (noun) - “the loyalty of a citizen.”
Republic (noun) - “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.”
Nation (noun) - “a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own.”
Indivisible (adjective) - “not separable into parts; incapable of being divided.”
Liberty (noun) - “freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control; freedom from external or foreign rule; independence. Freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc. Freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint.”
Justice (noun) - “righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness.”
Much of this pledge is true. We are a republic of loyal citizens--a group of people within our borders with our own elected representatives and government. Our fifty states have not divided into pieces. However, parts of our pledge are still out of reach for many of our fellow citizens.
Liberty: is every American free from interference, restriction and hampering conditions?
Justice: is every American treated with righteousness and equitableness?
Each of us has a role in liberty and justice. Have you ever called the police because someone looked suspicious? Have you ever left a public place because someone made you feel uncomfortable? Have you ever judged a person as guilty based on how he or she looks? These small examples from each person add up to a large problem that still plagues our society today.
We are a great republic with many great people. We are independent. We are free. I do not accept that the rest of the world and future generations of Americans will define America during our generation as subjugate and unjust. We must take steps to ensure that all Americans, regardless of how they look or what they believe, have liberty and justice. Each of us has the power to make small changes in our own life to make this the best time to be an American and to set a new precedent for our children’s futures.
Adam C. Fritsch is a Veteran Firefighter (18 years) and Nationally Registered- (16 years) and Critical Care-Paramedic (14 years). He is a Lieutenant/Critical Care Paramedic with the Western Lakes Fire District in Wisconsin. Mr. Fritsch founded Advanced Professional Healthcare Education LLC in March 2007. He serves as President & Chief Financial Officer, as well as American Heart Association BLS, ACLS, and PALS Instructor and Training Center Coordinator. Under his leadership, the company has grown to 15 full time employees, 55 part time employee instructors, and 100 contracted instructors. Email: [email protected]