By: Madison Lindeman, Summer Intern 2018
I’m writing this in the early hours of July 4th, a holiday that I have always loved. This isn’t born out of a strong or particularly distinct sense of patriotism; I have just always loved the parades, the cookouts, the fireworks, the sense of community with the people around me. Many years, you can feel a sense of togetherness binding you to the people around you – we all live in America, so ideally, today should be a day for all of us.
These past few years, though, I’ve approached this holiday with a lot more cynicism and skepticism than in the past. It’s hard to feel the passion behind Independence Day when I don’t feel like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness apply equally to everyone.
Especially this summer, after a month with Open Table Nashville, the songs and rallying cries of this “Independence Day” ring hollow to me. It is not easy to celebrate a country that, though it is among the richest in the world, has people dying on its streets every day; or to applaud our independence when that individualism leads to a lack of compassion for our neighbors; or to praise a nation that refuses to acknowledge shelter or health care as a basic right that all people deserve.
Particularly for our friends experiencing homelessness in Nashville, the system we celebrate on July 4th is not one that works for them. Nashville continues to develop into a playground for the rich while ignoring those struggling with food, shelter, and health care, and stalling in the effort to build affordable housing. This city, and cities across the US, continue to celebrate freedom and independence while using that individualism as an excuse to ignore people all around them who continue to struggle with basic human needs.
At OTN this week, we’ve been celebrating Interdependence Day, in an acknowledgement that we live in an interconnected world, part of a rich thread of visible and invisible links that unite each and every one of us. Patriotism should not ignore how people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, people experiencing homelessness, and many other groups in the US still don’t experience that ideal American freedom. We cannot ignore the pain of those around us, for in the words of Emma Lazarus, “until we are all free, we are none of us free.”
So yes, take the 4th off, throw those burgers on the grill, and enjoy a night of fireworks – there’s nothing wrong with that! But please join me in also celebrating our interconnectedness rather than just our independence. Join me in remembering the responsibility we have to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to be kind, to remember that our liberation and freedom is bound up with those around us. This week, strive towards that goal and be intentional about how you interact with the people around you. Whether it’s handing off a cold bottle of water to one of our friends on the street, volunteering with Open Table Nashville, or just giving a smile and greeting to people around you, take time to feel and celebrate the interdependence of this world we live in.