Courtesy Betsy Ross

This year, July the 4th happens to fall on a Friday. In previous years, I’ve written and reposted a rather long list of observations I’ve made as an American, from the inside looking out, about this country. Unfortunately, I can’t say things have changed all that much.

Don’t misunderstand – progress has been made. More states within the nation recognize same-sex marriage, health care is available to every citizen, and steps have been taken to ease the burden of debt on students. But we’re still deeply involved in the business of other countries in a military way. Our legislature remains obstinate and the highest court in the country has made several significant rulings that perpetuate the status quo that supports big business and gender inequality.

I still prefer to call this holiday by it’s official name: “Independence Day.” Even so, I know it rings a bit hollow. As much as Americans fought for their independence, they have also taken independence away from others. American pundits will crow about freedom while minorities continue to struggle to get what the majority enjoys. To say my feelings about the country of my birth are mixed would be a massive understatement.

I’ve tried to avoid being overly political in this particular space. This is more a venue for my creative outlet and promoting my work than it is for soapbox grandstanding. However, I can’t deny that I find some of the hypocrisy that seems endemic to the American experience absolutely outrageous.

I’m starting to sound like an old man, sitting on my porch in a rocking chair and shaking my cane at all these young upstarts who don’t know the right way to live. The truth is, though, that it’s the old men I’m angriest at. I simply don’t understand why people cannot be allowed to enjoy the same sorts of benefits of citizenship, regardless of how they were born. America was once called ‘the land of opportunity’. Anybody, regardless of how they were born, could achieve just about anything. That was the American Dream. Maybe it still is for some, but for others, it’s as far away from them as we are from the stars in the night sky.

Bah! Don’t listen to me. This is supposed to be a day of celebration and revelry, and here I am bringing everybody down. I’m sure plenty of folks look around America and see nothing wrong. I’m sorry I can’t be one of them. I can’t just sit back and enjoy the holiday. I know there are people less fortunate than me within these borders with even less reason to celebrate than me. And they should be able to. We all should be able to. If America is the land of the free, then all of us should be free.

And not just free to buy another Big Mac while Fox News plays on flatscreens.

Free to be who we are, to follow our dreams, and make a difference.

That, to me, is what independence means.