As I sat on a grassy hill overlooking the Cumberland River, observing the annual Independence Day fireworks and their reflection on the still water, I thought about what we as Americans celebrate on this day. What do the fireworks and the festive parties and parades mean? I thought about asking a few of the many people sitting next to me on this hill, each one decked out in stars and stripes, “What does this day represent for you?” Some might mention our First Amendment rights, freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition, all of which are valuable. But what other freedoms do we have? What about the freedom to work and earn money to use to feed and shelter our loved ones and ourselves? Or the freedom to walk the streets without the fear of being unjustly harassed or arrested because we do or do not look a certain way? Although the seizure of these rights is thought of as something foreign and unthinkable, thousands of individuals in the United States experience the injustice of having their basic human rights disregarded because of their social-economis status as poor or homeless.
After the fireworks show is over, most of us drove to our homes and snoozed in our comfortable beds. But for some, there is no permanent home to return to, maybe not even a friendly couch to relieve tired, blistering feet. The homes of our friends on the streets look different. They may be more temporary or less sustainable. They may not provide necessary protection from the elements. They might not even be there when they return. The only solace available might look like a bench in a public park, which provides little security and a large risk of arrest. There may be no kitchen with a pantry of food to return to when hunger strikes. Each meal is a question mark; each day is uncertain. So, rather than perpetuate this exclusive freedom and only honor the rights of those who are labeled as worthy, let us as a community accompany one another with support and grace as we redefine what it really means to be American. If we call this the land of the free and the home of the brave, let us be brave enough to fight for the freedom and equality of all people. Join Open Table Nashville in making this happen here in this city we all share (firstname.lastname@example.org).
OTN Summer Intern