In 1943, Norman Rockwell created a series of oil paintings entitled, “The Four Freedoms.” Rockwell had a special knack, an eye for capturing and interpreting the collective spirit and soul of the uniquely-American experience.
Rockwell’s inspiration for the paintings came from the State of the Union address President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered to Congress on Jan. 6, 1941.
In that address, known as the Four Freedoms speech, Roosevelt stated that freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear are universal and essential rights of all people.
In addition to inspiring four of the most well-known works of art in America, the speech also provided the framework for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights authored by Eleanor Roosevelt and adopted by the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948.
The Declaration of Human Rights states that all people are inherently afforded certain rights and no person or government should attempt to impinge those rights. It goes on to say, “Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind …”
Our own founding documents contain passages that support these objectives. The Declaration of Independence clearly states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And, of course, most of us know the Preamble to the Constitution, and we can sing it in our heads because we grew up watching Schoolhouse Rock.
So, here we are, poised to celebrate our independence in the usual ways. Some of us have our red, white and blue outfits all picked out. We’ve made our grocery lists for our cookouts. We’ve gotten online and googled “fireworks near me.” We’ve wondered if there will be parades anywhere. We’ve talked about how great it is that July 4 is a Saturday this year, and what a bummer it is that COVID-19 has messed with some of our traditions.
With everything that has been going on this year, we have an opportunity to step back and take a look at where we came from, where we are, and where we’re going. And, more importantly, we should consider where we want to go. Then we have to ask ourselves whether our current situation is the most efficient and effective way of getting us there.
Recently, I was surprised to learn that the framers of our Constitution studied the governing documents of established democracies, most notably, the Iroquois Confederacy, which is said to be the oldest living democracy on earth. The Iroquois Constitution references the Seventh Generation philosophy which advises that we should always consider how our decisions and actions today will affect the seventh generation to follow.
So now I ask, are we more likely to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity by fighting amongst ourselves, or by finding a way to work together?
Wishing you and yours a safe and happy Independence Day 2020. May we all find the grace and humility to accept and cherish the differences among us.
Lania Rocha is a staff writer for the View Newspapers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.