Years ago, and I mean many years ago, my dad (career air force) was transferred to McGuire AFB in New Jersey. Always a southern child, moving up north was a pretty scary event. For anyone who has lived in the south, the abrupt change from the slow south to the “all business” north can be a little disarming. As we moved onto base housing, one of the first things that happened to me and my siblings was a trip that the base hosted for us dependents. Chartering a bus, the higher ups shuttled many of us over to Philadelphia for a view of Ben Franklin’s home and business, and the Liberty Bell. Nationalism was high on the list at this particular time, as the Liberty Train was still on the circuit ticket as an attraction from a few years back, so we were excited about seeing a place we studied devotedly in History class in middle school. Up close and personal brought on a whole different meaning for me, as I touched the actual Liberty Bell.
The other day I found those pictures from thirty or so years ago, and was amazed at the difference and feel Fourth of July has come to mean for me personally. My brothers, Scott and Tim, both enlisted in the military when they grew up. Scott, the oldest of the two, became a Marine, and Tim, the Navy. Scott saw much heartache during his service as he was sent to Africa in the 1990s to take a tour during the crisis in Somalia. He manned supply caravans to those who were starving within the country. He wrote me often about his experiences, citing the grisly details of how they fought to get food past rebels, and many times coming to drop off points only to find hundreds dead because they could not get there in time. Burying the dead tortured his spirit, as he felt helpless, unable to save those who needed supplies desperately.
This memory made me realize that I take for granted the grocery store. We gripe because ‘such and such’ went up a few cents, but we rarely see past our blinders to the rest of the world, and how grocery stores are pretty much a given freedom for us as voting. Being able to get in your car, drive down the road, walk into air conditioning, wander the aisles of food products aimlessly, picking brands, throwing the product in your cart, paying for it with a piece of plastic and then taking it home to sometimes be forgotten in the back of your fridge, alas, and a science experiment, contributing to waste, is an act we take for granted. I wonder how those Somalian people would fare if they had our freedom of grocery stores? Would they surplus buy? Would they throw away about twenty dollars of product every week because they over brought? Would their fridges be host to many fungi experiments in pieces of Tupperware?
Independence is not only a holiday for us, but a way of life. Americans should be the leader in this world, showing others how to become independent, not wasteful. Our way of life should be an example, and yet, I can say with disappointment, our example consist of overindulgence, materialism and excess.
My boyfriend made a very poignant statement to me a couple of days ago as I was semi-complaining about the condition of our little Honda. While its inner workings (motor and so forth) are in great condition, the exterior looks a little rough. He looked at me and said, “I consider this vehicle a tool.” His meaning – it did not matter what the outside looked liked, it got him to work and back with little gas use, and that was all that was necessary. To be honest, I felt like a heel after that, because he was right. I settled into that beast of materialism for just a moment.
Kevin and I are simple people. We live simply, because in my opinion, the excess of money only adds new headaches. We have what we need in our little yellow cabin in the mountains. I have a garden which produces food. We just planted more fruit trees, and the land has supplied numerous blackberry vines. Independence to us means we can live just that way, simply, next to the land, with jobs and schooling, the ability to get to point A from point B, to share good times with our children, being rich in love, and the satisfaction that our bills are paid on time every month.
I am very proud of my family. My son, Chase, is now enlisted in the Army and my nephew, Chris, is soon to be in the Air Force. My daughter Kelsey is contemplating doing the same. And what is so special about this, is that they have the independence and freedom to make this decision for themselves.