Yesterday, the United States celebrated its Declaration of Independence from Britain. A group of disparate colonies clinging to the Atlantic Coast banded together to detach themselves from the control of another country and they fought a bloody, protracted war to make that independence possible.
History tells us that the thirteen colonies were hardly in agreement about anything. They were possessed of remarkably different economies and temperaments. They disagreed about nearly everything … including whether or not to declare independence in the first place.
Really, they just didn’t like each other.
But they soldiered on and created a nation. A very imperfect nation with many faults baked right into our foundations – most especially the dehumanization of Africans, natives and all other non-whites.
We are still struggling with their creation. We are still debating if we are more federation or nation. The narrow religious views of the first Colonists still constrain our national imagination. Our racist past… well it’s not past at all. We are still very young and untested as nation states go.
We still don’t like each other very much.
And yet… we need each other.
Those original thirteen colonies needed to band together to have the resources to overthrow British rule. The brutal conflict of the Civil War less than one hundred years later was based largely on the North realizing it needed the South’s resources as much as it was about the abolition of slavery.
Today it’s easy to think we’re self-sufficient. To pretend that we don’t need the people who annoy us, who are different from us, who are invisible to us.
What a lie that is though. We are deeply dependent on each other. From the person who picks the apples for our pies to the software programmer who maintains the platform where this blog lives. From the people who clean our buildings to the people who drill oil for us to run the cars we refuse to give up to the people who manage our 401Ks, teach our kids, package our Amazon deliveries, pave our roads and defend our freedom. We are all leaning on each other, even as we disparage and disclaim that dependence in an attempt to find someone to blame.
On this holiday, as I struggle with celebrating when so much of what is happening in our country seems so very wrong, I’m thinking that maybe it’s always been that way. We are just as blind and as hopeful and as ornery and as conflicted as those who declared the revolution 242 years ago.
We may not always like each other, but we need each other. Recognizing that interdependence is perhaps especially important on this Independence Day.
(My closest approximation of “amber waves of grain.”)