July 4th celebrates our nation’s escape from the tyranny of a colonial power across the ocean. And so we cheer. In this presidential election year, the candidates compete to project the strength and wisdom necessary to keep us free. Freedom is an important piece of our national identity, but is in the eye of the beholder. My large extended family sets off fireworks on a deserted stretch of beach every summer, mindful of the pride and power of that spectacle.
It is not lost on me, however, that the words, free and independent, mean different things to different people. Most of us, sharing our struggles and pain, writing in this space, agree that we are not free. And our independence is challenged each day. We are at a loss to do much about it. We fight on, privately, indeed, quietly, and we do not give up.
We are not heroes, only survivors. There is no day reserved and ready to celebrate our struggle. Really, we are anonymous, never larger than life. Life rests at the center of our war with an enemy we cannot see. We fought on yesterday, as we will do tomorrow.
The nation does not honor us, nor does it pay much attention to the one in five of us who lives with a disability. Nearly half the population has at least one chronic illness. All of us are invisible, blending into the crowd that refuses to see us and shows no interest in helping us. And so, we celebrate our own version of independence. I, for one, am ready to continue going it alone. Someday our priorities will change, and we will acknowledge the terror of battling the enemy within.