ith a display of pyrotechnics and patriotism, spectators at Freedom Fest celebrated Independence Day early.  Clusters of lawn chairs and blankets strewn across the grass at the Porterville Sports Complex gave a collective picnic like atmosphere as thousands of people awaited the arrival of twilight and fireworks. 

Descending darkness and the booming reverberations of cannons drew eyes upward as colorful explosions rocketed into the night sky. Repeated vibrant bursts of light cascaded overhead in patterned chaos as pungent smoke trails drifted past. 

Fireworks evoke a feeling of freedom as they burst into brilliance. They seem to express the joy of graduation and the liberation of getting out of school for summer though the significance of Independence Day draws on lessons of patriotism from the past. 

Chastised for not keeping his rebellious colonies in line, King George declared the members of the Second Continental Congress as treasonous rebels. Our founding fathers learned just how costly the business of declaring independence could be. 

When the 56 members of that Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, they knowingly committed an act of treason which carried with it a penalty of death by hanging. 

These honorable statesmen pledged their lives and their fortunes to this cause for liberation.  Of these well-educated men of means nearly half were lawyers and judges while another quarter were merchants and the rest were farmers. All suffered serious consequences. 

Considered traitors by the British, five signers were captured, tortured and killed. Others had their plantations seized and their ships sunk. A dozen had their homes ransacked and burned. Soldiers looted their properties and arrested their families. Nine fought and died during the Revolutionary War.

The fight for freedom whether in the past or present is often prompted by an instigating event. The Boston Tea Party, a teen rebelling against a curfew or a toddler throwing a tantrum unless he gets to feed himself share a certain feistiness.

Freedom from tyrannical rule is driving citizens out of countries around the world causing millions of traumatized, impoverished masses to migrate in numbers previously unmatched in history. These record numbers of refugees the world over are flooding and overwhelming neighboring countries. 

Conflicts abound whether from verbal scrimmages on Twitter to the mass starvation and exodus of the people of Yemen. Many are praying that nuclear war is averted, but fears abound that fascination with firepower and fighting will escalate beyond a war of words in Iran, Palestine and Korea. 

Independence has a timeless quality having been sought by many over the ages. Marginalized immigrants are still seeking it as they migrate away from the drug wars and violence in the south. Will they gain access to their desired freedom?  At what price to those who take them in? Can our humanness afford to exclude them?

Independence isn’t just sought by sex slaves from their captures or by Syrian citizens from their own government.  Spiritual adepts seek independence from the tyranny of their own mind. Monkey mind can overtake even the most devote practitioners who intend to stabilize their mind on peaceful aspirations. 

While it seems natural for toddlers to tantrum and teens to loudly demand self-governance, independence from one’s own country to the recent global degree feels less common. Global unrest seems to have citizens everywhere experiencing a lack of calm. 

Yet independence continues to be celebrated. Declaring one’s independence, though often costly, has benefits such as the colonist’s relief from taxes, the new found freedoms of teens setting their own curfew or the internal peace one shares with another in crisis.

Individual declarations of independence can involve changing an area in life that feels restricted like stopping the brain’s endless worry loop. The mind of an addictive person is obsessed with the substance that makes them forget their troubles for a bit. 

Some overweight people fight their addiction to overeating as emotions grip them.  They often seek independence from the addiction to sweets. Where is your life calling for freedom?

Personalize this day of freedom. Find a troublesome aspect of life and choose your own liberation. What are you willing to pay for that liberation? What will you risk to have what you want?

While enjoying the Independence Day holiday, take time to remember the price the first patriots paid for our freedoms. Reflect on the rebellious founding father’s actions and use their bravery and the images of the liberating fireworks to bring about a desired form of independence for yourself.

Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at educationallyspeaking@gmail.com.

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