Speaker: Amy Geyer
This weekend millions of Americans across the country gathered in campgrounds, at picnics and barbeques to celebrate the Fourth of July. This weekend was filled with concerts, baseball games, ice cream, hamburgers, hotdogs, apple pie and of course, parades and fireworks. The weather couldn’t have been better! What a glorious weekend!
Some may wonder why we celebrate when there is still so much wrong in the world and in our own country. The United States is still in the midst of a controversial war. We still have homeless people living and dying on our streets. Gas prices are at their highest and still climbing. While for others, as many of us saw in our Yahoo Group emails, Obama’s discussion on faith-based initiatives was upsetting. And some of us still cannot openly speak of being gay or pagan without fear of losing our jobs.
But how often is a war not controversial? When in history have we not had homeless? How often does the price of gas actually decrease? When have we ever had the perfect presidential candidate? And when has any society ever instantly accepted every subgroup?
Some of you may know that my immediate boss is an Evangelical Christian. The reason I know this is because he evangelizes at work. He has, on occasion, evangelized to my coworkers and to me that he, my boss, knows the way to righteousness because he reads and follows the true word of God. He despises those who follow any other path. He does not like women who hyphenate their last names. He believes gay people are sick and can be cured. He would be happy if the great rapture of Revelations occurred in his lifetime. His boss in Omaha is also an Evangelical Christian.
I am often angered by my boss’s rantings. I am also quite often late for work. Not very late – just 10 to 15 minutes or so. I’m simply not a morning person. How long do you think I would have my job if my boss found out that I am a neo-Gnostic pagan Jewish mystic?
Sometimes I think about doing something to stop my boss’s behavior. I could file a complaint then sue my employer when boss fires me, supposedly, for being frequently tardy. But then, a few weeks ago I met a woman from Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is diamond rich country in western Africa and had been a British colony. Their education system is modeled on the British system and many children spend time in England at their schools. She told me the story of her son, a bright young boy who enjoyed school and had just spent his first semester in England. Upon his return to Sierra Leone and at the age of 12 he was taken by rebels.
She could only hope that he was forced to mine diamonds as many young people were.
He was not.
Instead he had been forced into the rebel army where he had a choice; kill or be killed.
And so this young boy did as he was told. He killed and he kidnapped others. But this young boy was bright. He earned the trust of his captors and within the year he was able to escape and return home to his mother and sister in Freetown. All three now live in the U.S.
The Universe has indeed blessed me.
How incredibly blessed am I that I can sit in my cozy office chair, in the air conditioning and contemplate my contempt for my bosses behavior. Yes I am free to file a complaint. And I am free to bite my tongue and continue being late for work.
What good would it do for me to complain? Yes, the law is on my side. But my boss brings in revenue for the company. I am an expense, a cost of doing business. Oh, I might make the papers and lots of people would rally behind me. Lots of people would rally behind my boss as well. Some of you may feel I should take action that it’s the principle of the matter at stake. But I am not called to this particular battle. I won’t have this job forever and would prefer to leave of my own free will and leave behind a bit of advice for my boss!
We enjoy a country of privilege.
And so we celebrate. We celebrate to remind ourselves that we are free and of what it means to be free. Free to attend those baseball games. Free to choose to assist the homeless, the underprivileged, the humane society or any charity of our choosing.
On this 4th of July weekend let us also celebrate the lives of two of the men who made this country possible. Thomas Jefferson, a Unitarian in thought and John Adams, an active Unitarian member, both died within hours of each other on July 4th 1826.
Because of these two men and others like them we are also free to vote for the candidate of our own choosing. Our polling places are not surrounded by armed guards allowing only certain individuals to vote. On Election Day we cast our votes with relative certainty that it will be counted and not tossed into the trash. Our political leaders are also free to challenge the outcome of a vote by demanding a recount. This process may at times seem to be out of hand but it is vital the we understand the importance of these freedoms.
We are also free to be Catholics, Evangelicals or UU’s. While I am not happy about my job situation I am ever so grateful that I can be a Unitarian Universalist. Here I can be truly free.
When I gather with my UU family whether for worship or fun I feel free from the pressures of society. I do not feel the need to label myself or those around me. Here I feel accepted and rejuvenated. I carry that revitalized faith in my beliefs when leave here. I try to live by example and by our principles, as I am free, in this country to do so. I also try to choose my battles wisely and at the right time, as did our country’s founders.
So many in this world are denied the freedom to speak out or to challenge. And many struggle to simply be alive at the end of the day. We the people of this country are indeed privileged. And so it is good that we celebrate.