Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. I learned about Juneteenth maybe ten years ago. The basic story is that President Abraham Lincoln had freed all slaves in the Emancipation proclamation. But that proclamation was not applicable until the North won the civil war.
The former slave owners did not tell all the slaves they were free when the war was conceded. It took Union soldiers to come tell these people their new freedom.
Jefferson said the beautiful phrase in the declaration of independence:
“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 are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
Liberty is an unalienable right. And yet, we can be alienated from our liberty.
There is a story that circus elephants are trained while they are little, with a strong leg band chained to a stake. They fight and pull to get away and have their freedom. They gall their leg, tearing their skin bloody. Thus, they learn not to fight the restraint. This lasts past their growth into adulthood.
It doesn’t even take the actual wound anymore. Just the memory or the threat of that pain is enough.
I have framed my understanding of the world and placed things into categories. There are forbidden things, things that cause pain.
But I am not the same as I was yesterday. And I’m not in the same place. What might be possible now that wasn’t possible before?
I am glad this story of Juneteenth is a yearly holiday now. The declaration of Independence wasn’t enough. Our understanding of liberty needs to be revisited.
What freedoms have I surrendered and forgotten? I can test some limits.
It’s always and every day a choice. The calvary can come in and let me know that I’m free. I’m grateful to the people in my life who do just that.
And also, I want to be my own calvary. That takes revisiting my assumptions and testing limits regularly.
I value my freedom. Liberty is worth fighting for and protecting.