Our Struggle for Independence Today
I love the Fourth of July with all its fanfare. I love the floats, the marching bands, the BBQs, Uncle Sam on stilts… Now that I'm a candidate, I love getting to march (or run from side to side meeting as many people as I can!) with dozens of supporters and our "rail-mobile" in the local parades.
But in the midst of all the fanfare yesterday, a reporter asked me this simple question: "What does Independence Day mean to you?" My answer, as reported in today's Union Leader, was that "While America celebrates 240 years of freedom, the struggle for independence continues with every generation… Everyone must be reminded of their freedoms and their potential." That wasn't the whole answer.
Like so many of you, I grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in public school. Although I never thought much about the ending back then, it's been on my mind a lot since launching this campaign: "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." To me, liberty and justice are two sides of the same coin; you can't have one without the other. Thus, the struggle for liberty, or independence, is simultaneously a struggle for justice. And justice, as Pastor Adam reminded our congregation on Sunday (with help from MLK), requires giving people what they are due -- whether punishment, protection, or care.
America has grown adept at meting out punishment in recent years. We have the largest prison population and one of the highest rates of execution in the world. But what about my neighbor in downtown Nashua who has long battled the disease of addiction and cannot get the care she needs because our Executive Councilor is opposed to public spending and New Hampshire ranks 50th in access to drug treatment? What about the teenager I met last week in Brookline on our Handshake Tour who is spending his summer doing manual labor and still can't afford college because our state is last in higher education spending and first in student debt? What about the 12,000 low-income women and men who rely on Planned Parenthood for basic care and who risk seeing that care curtailed by an Executive Councilor who espouses "liberty" but refuses to spend money on health, without which a person can't be free? What about our many fellow citizens -- 33,000 nationwide -- who die each year from gun violence while our government refuses to protect Americans by restricting access to military-grade weapons for people suspected of terrorism or mentally ill?
I believe our struggle for independence is not merely a struggle for freedom from government -- it is a struggle for a just society. A society where every child has the protection and care she needs to realize her God-given potential to live free and thrive!