Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy Interdependence Day

"The landlord of the 'Chat Gris'-by name Brogard-had taken no notice of his guests...and in the meantime it was not for a free citizen to show deference, or even courtesy, to anyone..." 

I laid back in the bed, happy and tired. We'd had a great day with family and ended the night watching the fireworks display my cousin's children had designed (complete with playlist of patriotic songs). I scrolled through Facebook and smiled at the pictures of kids with sparklers, the patriotic memes declaring gratitude for independence, the American Way, the soldiers who protected it...I grimaced when I read my friends post complaining about late night fireworks waking up his young son. And then I read a post from Unvirtuous Abbey (if you appreciate irreverant humor and thought provoking "prayers" check them out) 

"For soldiers with PTSD whose neighbors decide to let off their own fireworks in their backyards we pray."

I read it and thought "Is that really a thing? I many soldiers with PTSD..."
A lot.

I read through the comments as veterans shared their ways of getting through the night...headphones, ear plugs, loud TVs, loud music, alcohol. I read comments from people complaining they needed to "lighten up" and that people should be allowed to "have a little fun" I mean, after all, its a "free country"

"It took Brogard some few minutes to consider the question. A free citizen does not respond too readily to the wishes of those who happen to require something of him" 

So we celebrate our independence...we thank our soldiers...but we don't appreciate the trauma that the loud booms, pops and explosions put them through. Because we are damned well going to celebrate the freedom you helped protect whether you like it or not!

Oh dear Lord. I hadn't even considered it.

One woman mentioned that her family knew a soldier lived down the street from them. So they asked him before setting off fireworks in their yard. Another mentioned young children and said their subdivision had come together and agreed that no fireworks would be set off after 9:30 for the sake of the babies and the parents...and that everyone had complied.
(Yay! Hope for humanity!)

Here's the America, we love to celebrate our "independence", our freedom, our rights. But we become so enamored with our independence that we forget our interdependence. We are so busy exercising our rights that we forget we might be trampling on the rights of others. 

"...and lounged about, smoking his evil-smelling pipe, sometimes under Marguerite's very nose, as any free-born citizen who was anybody's equal should do." 

The other day I was working at Horizon. I had the inner lobby doors closed because the Community Center in Little Five can be quite a boisterous atmosphere. Close to the end of the show, a young woman opens the lobby door and shouts at me across the room "Can you tell me where so and so is being held?" (In her defense, she wasn't deliberately shouting...she projects naturally...I can relate...I do it, a lot) I turned around and without thinking did the finger to the lips and the "shhhh" And she immediately became angry "DON'T YOU SHUSH ME!" she said. Walking over to her, I quietly tried to explain that we had a show going on and the patrons inside the theatre could hear her. "Well then, you ask me to be quiet, you don't shush me!" she said...getting louder and louder. I finally got her out of the inner lobby and calmed her down. But she left offended...and I was kinda okay with that because I was offended. She felt her rights and dignity had been abused and I felt the same...on my behalf and that of my audience. But later I thought about it and realize that we'd both been so busy defending our "rights" that we hadn't taken time to consider the other. I have no idea why the finger to the lip and the "shhh" was so offensive to her and she had no idea why it wasn't okay for her to be that loud in my lobby. 

"It was distinctly more fitting to his newborn dignity to be as rude as possible; it was a sure sign of servility to meekly reply to civil questions" 

There's this great song on the If/Then original cast recording, "Ain't No Man Manhattan" depicting on each of us is connected, how everyone's life connects, etc. It contains the line "How much you love your life is, what ev'ry life is worth" We need to be as protective of other people's rights and feelings as we want to be our own. Whether we are cutting people off in traffic to get to our destination just a split second sooner, shooting off fireworks, or leaving comments online. Other people matter. The way we treat them matters. And if we give up shooting fireworks in our backyard so that a former soldier struggling with PTSD can have a calmer evening, that is not our rights being infringed upon...that is saying in this instance, someone is more important than our entertainment. If we remember that certain gestures are offensive to certain people, then we are honoring them and/or their culture. If we refrain from the lewd joke, rude comment, or hateful comeback...we are not silencing our voices but becoming the voice of reason.

"And with this parting assertion of his rights as a citizen and a free man, to be as rude as he well pleased, Brogard shuffled out of the room, banging the door after him."

We are interdependent as a nation...we rely on each other, take care of each other and need to continuously lift each other up. Because if we are continuously lifting each other up, then everyone gets to climb. And we are all better for it. And that is something to celebrate.

(All quotes from The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy)

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