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Letter to the editor: Independence from what, exactly, in 2022 America?
Letter to the Editor generic


In the barrage of recent events, Independence Day prompts reflection on the history and values associated with the hallowed holiday.

Diverse expressions of dissent related to governance, racial issues, and other partisan interests have exposed contentious rifts in America’s identity. It is disturbingly ironic that these conflicting viewpoints are commonly derived from aspirations imbedded in the nation’s origins — foremost, individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Americans are renowned for independent thinking, articulated in the landmark 1841 essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance.” Resisting conformity and following one’s instincts as perceived in an “every-man-for-himself” world have been espoused for much of our history, propagating subversive consequences that persist.

Related residual views still predominate among various divisive groups, serving as a vaguely understood basis of self-respect. Yet, intertwined social, economic, and technological changes that have occurred since these tenets of American identity were formulated require that we adapt them to new circumstances.

Personal liberty in the 21st century depends on a respectful society which requires tempering the excesses of a “frontier ethic” whose most dogged practitioners are often skeptical of science, selectively negligent, and hostile toward others — including racial minorities and migrants.

Abandoning fantasized or obsolete versions of freedom is essential if we hope to restore political institutions, salvage our ravaged global environment, and establish lasting social justice. Achieving an equitable, cohesive society with mutually beneficial opportunities requires that past prejudices and antagonisms be cast aside. Our vision must be inspired by a vibrant, accountable sense of the common good and honored interdependence.

To safeguard America’s ideals, we must struggle for independence from the oppressive dogmatism and violence that imperils our country’s worthy prospects. And, commensurate with advancing those ideals, as citizens we must commit ourselves to eternal and enlightened vigilance.

David Kyler, Center for a Sustainable Coast

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