For me, July 4th brings complicated feelings this year. I’ve been out of sorts all day. Although it’s a day of celebration, it’s also a day of remembrance, thankfulness, and prayer. Watching current national news makes me feel ill, and yet when I read tweets and posts of my friends and family working hard to resist the gloom-and-doom, I have hope.
I am celebrating my freedom to speak and write.
I ran across several tweets today from Laura Ruby, author of York: The Shadow Cipher, a book I just finished reading (and loved). Her words brought to mind my own mouthiness (is that a word?) — speaking up against the cruel and insane people who think our country is now a better place than it was last year. I have friends and family who are gay, poor, and disabled. My own daughters and I have medical issues that need constant monitoring. I fear for the future, for my family’s future. I have no right to feel this way, while many people still do not enjoy these freedoms. It burns me up when I see and hear inequalities in life. As a white woman with a traditional family, I have no right to enjoy all this freedom while others don’t. But I have the freedom to speak and write. I need to use it more. I will; I promise. I feel blessed to have so many friends and family who support me, who read with me, and who write with me. I am able to say and do what I need to do without much backlash or fear. I feel lucky.
Laura Ruby wrote about her own medical diagnosis and struggles with a person at a hotel who asked her questions about why she was upset and afraid after the last election. She was able to speak, and later write, about this incident. I am inspired by her spirited tweets. I don’t feel alone in the world — I know people like Laura are out there with me, being mouthy and telling their stories. She mentioned how she felt moved, hearing John Lewis’s acceptance speech for winning the National Book Award (for March: Book Three – part of a wonderful trilogy about his own experiences with civil rights issues), and how his words put so much into perspective for her. John Lewis couldn’t get a library card because of the color of his skin. He dreamed, and fought, and wrote his story to share with us. As I re-read his words today, I feel lucky.
I am celebrating my freedom to read and to learn.
As a teacher, it is my job to use my mouthiness to inspire a new generation of thinkers and learners who will carry on this struggle for independence. It’s not easy — it’s really hard. I appreciate my students’ needs, hopes, and dreams, and I want to hear what they have to say. It’s my job to introduce them to books — reading — that will expand their minds and hearts. It’s my job to teach them to write their stories, so that others can be inspired by them as much as I have been inspired. I am lucky.
I am celebrating my freedom to teach.
July 4th is Independence Day. I don’t have to worry about looking different (as in un-American), buying what I need (and want), or living with people I love. I have excellent healthcare coverage (for now) and a wonderful job. I don’t fear leaving my neighborhood to do the daily tasks I need to do. It’s not fair. July 4th means freedom for me, and I am celebrating my hope for the future, just as others are still being oppressed. I wonder what I can do. I hope future citizens of America will be as lucky as I am.
Laura Ruby wrote, “Protest. Run for office. Create art.” I love that! Those freedoms exist, although many still have to struggle and fight for those freedoms. I want to help. Today, I’m not sure what good I’ll do. For me, this July 4th brings complicated feelings. Ms. Ruby inspires me, saying, “Make all the noise you can. We are our own best hope.” I am lucky.
July 4, 2017 at 7:46 PM
We are on the same wavelength, my friend. Your “mouthiness,” as you call it, will reverberate as you guide students to find their voices. As teachers, our one voice resonates as many. Be well, and keep marching on and writing freely.
July 4, 2017 at 11:11 PM
Thank you for your thoughts. You express very well the ambivalence of those of us lucky to not be on the receiving end of the oppressions that still exist in this country — founded with much hope, yet still imperfect — yet knowing there is much we can and must do to work on redressing those wrongs. I think you must be a very good teacher to work with your students to do what you can to help them learn to think critically and never take their freedoms for granted. Whatever you do has an effect.
July 10, 2017 at 9:45 PM
Thank you! I’m trying.
July 5, 2017 at 7:24 AM
Wow. Incredible words to ponder.
July 5, 2017 at 10:26 AM
Feelings are complicated – understandable. I am glad that you are deeply thinking about your rights and how you will put them to use, Jennifer. Have a great week.
July 10, 2017 at 9:46 PM
Thank you! It’s so hard to know what I can do.