Man, I love Independence Day.
I love the parades and the family cookouts. I love eating popcorn at the American Legion baseball game. I love the flags and the heat and laughing at family get-togethers while we all stay up to see lightning bugs mix with the fireworks splashing across the open sky.
It’s the best.
But even more than the hot-dogs and home runs, I love Independence Day because I love freedom.
Now, I get it. That sounds just about as corny as John Phillip Sousa playing over a Norman Rockwell slideshow. But it’s true.
But the problem is that I can’t talk about freedom these days without watching the QAnon conspiracy theorists and January 6 apologists crawl out of the woodwork to tell me that I don’t know what freedom is.
You see, ever since southern segregationists started preaching about “states rights” to cover up the inherent racism of segregation and George Wallace went on Meet the Press claiming “big government” was to blame for bigotry, the radical right has been working to co-op the very idea of freedom…and I say it’s time to take it back.
So let’s be clear, shall we?
Attacking public school teachers whose lesson plans contain actual American history instead of whitewashed fiction isn’t freedom.
Polluting the public debate with never ending racist dog whistles and demonizing anyone who dares to point out the truth is not freedom.
When you’re fighting for hundreds of new laws to deny hard-working Americans their right to vote because your party lost the last election, overturn a woman’s right to choose or deny affirmative action, you’re not doing it because you love freedom.
You don’t exercise your freedom by stealing classified documents and showing them off to visitors or pressuring election officials to commit fraud.
Confederate soldiers weren’t freedom fighters and neither were the January 6 rioters.
You know what freedom is? It’s standing in line for so long in the cold that you can’t feel your fingers because your vote is worth something no matter how many Republicans tell you it’s not. It’s speaking out when you’re 93-years-old because you’re not selling your home no matter what big developers do to force you.
Freedom means if they didn’t have a warrant or probable cause when they found it, they have to throw it out because we all play under the same rules. It means a poor Black kid in Swansea, SC deserves the same quality education as a rich white one in Scarsdale, NY. It means we count on each other, we serve each other, and we govern ourselves.
It means I don’t have to listen to you and you don’t have to listen to me, but we both have a right to speak.
It’s more than just Liberty. Liberty is simple. It’s the absence of constraint in all its forms, the removal of chains. A hermit in the woods has liberty. A stray cat searching the trash can for a meal has liberty.
Freedom is advanced citizenship. It’s independence guaranteed in the interdependence of community, the mutual self-governance of a people where all voices are heard and all voices carry weight.
A man, woman, child or beast can have liberty. Only a people can be free.
Freedom is difficult, fragile and beautiful. It is the soul of America and it’s time we took it back.
Make no mistake. We’re in a fight right now. We’re fighting for fundamental freedoms like the right to vote, the right to choose, the right to quality public education, equal justice and more. We’re fighting for the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear, freedoms which have sustained America for 247 years.
Ours is a fight for freedom itself and it’s a fight we must win.
Antjuan Seawright is a political strategist based in DC