Day 18: Freedom

We woke up this morning to the incessant sound of a loud bird chirping, in a Taj Mahal tent, and with the bright morning sun shining into our eyes. We brushed our teeth at a communal campground sink and splashed water over our swollen faces so we could walk into a local cafe and buy ourselves a Fourth of July Blueberry Pancakes Special for breakfast. We got back up on our bikes and climbed lots of slow, difficult hills in freezing, foggy weather. We sat in loose gravel on the side of Highway 101 and ate PB&Js for lunch again. Then, tonight, we packed all 11 of us into our one SAG car and drove down to the Brookings, OR fireworks “show” where we laid our tarps out on some dead grass and watched as miscellaneous citizens shot off their Roman Candles intermittently.

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Today was one of the first days that I really missed my home. I thought about how if I were there I’d probably be down at the bay, with the sunshine on my skin, eating watermelon in a 102° heat index. I thought about how I could spend my night laying on the Grand Hotel lawn looking up at millions of dollars worth of extravagant lights. I thought about a lot of things. I thought about how we all go shopping weeks in advance for this holiday just to get our perfect outfits — decked from head to toe in our red, white, and blue. I thought about how you can’t go two minutes on any social media platform today without seeing a teenage girl in her high waisted star spangled shorts from every good angle. And I thought about how all of this commotion is to celebrate freedom.

“Home of the brave,” and “land of the free,” we call it.

But being here, in little Brookings, OR, where it’s been below 55° all day and I’m spending my time not curling my hair and going to a backyard barbecue, but doing what I’m doing for what I’m doing it for… I can’t help but see through it.

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Because the truth is that there are people in our country who are not free. There are women and children who aren’t playing on their boat at the lake and flying the old stars and stripes off the back of it. There are people who can’t go shopping for a special Fourth of July outfit, much less take one million pictures until they get the perfect one that will receive the most likes. And for them, today could be one of their busiest days of the year. Maybe it’s that there’s a lot of tourists at the beach, so their pimp upped their quota for the night and won’t let them come back home until they meet it. Maybe more men from out of town are coming in and out of their brothel tonight so they are being forced to take more customers. Whatever the case may be, it’s imaginable that their Independence Day wasn’t as glamorous as ours, or even very independent at all.

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And I thought a lot about that today. When we live in our comforts and have the privilege of waking up to go buy ourselves breakfast, put on our festive garb, or merely choose whatever it is we want to do with our day off of work, I hope we won’t forget that not everyone is so fortunate. I hope in our zealous proclamations of “the land of the free,” we will not forget our brothers and sisters who are not. And I hope that it makes us cherish our own freedom more, even if it does only amount to a random conglomeration of lackluster fireworks in the spiky yard of a small RV park. Because I have no doubt that I am so fortunate for every moment of it.

-Madilyn