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Everyone enjoys the Fourth of July, the day on which we commemorate the Independence of the United States. But do you know what does independence day mean? Let’s look into it and reflect on how freedom and independence can apply to your daily lives.

July 4th is the National Day of the United States. The day (July 4, 1776) in which the declaration of independence was adopted by the Continental Congress declaring the thirteen colonies as a new nation, independent from the British Empire.

United States Declaration of Independence on a Betsy Ross flag background

The Bill of Rights and Our Freedoms

Taking this commemoration into account, it is a good day to think about the freedoms that we have access to. We are fortunate enough to have the Bill of Rights, which are the first ten amendments to the Constitution. These amendments delineate all the priceless freedoms we enjoy nowadays. All those freedoms that we, sometimes, take for granted.

Let’s remember our Bill of Rights and look into the most important amendments and the freedoms they proclaim:

FIRST AMENDMENT

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

  • Freedom of Religion: We are free to practice any religion if we choose to do so.
  • Freedom of Speech: We are free to verbalize all our thoughts and ideas.
  • Freedom to Press: We are free to express ourselves through our writing and have our views publicized.
  • Freedom to Assembly: We are free to hold meetings and discuss any subject we please.
  • Freedom of Petition: We are free to write to the members of our government, expressing our views and request the passages of laws or amendments.

SECOND AMENDMENT

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

  • Freedom to Bear Arms: We have the right to own weapons, believed to be necessary as a protective mechanism.

THIRD AMENDMENT

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

  • Freedom from Quartering: We are free from being forced to provide quartering (lodging) to military personnel.

FORTH AMENDMENT

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  • Freedom from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures: We are free from being searched or having our possessions seized without probable cause or the presence of a warrant.

FIFTH AMENDMENT

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

SIXTH AMENDMENT

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

SEVENTH AMENDMENT

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

EIGHTH AMENDMENT

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

  • Amendments 5th to 8th Proclaim Freedom to Receive Equal Justice: When involved in the criminal justice system, we are entitled to due process. We are entitled to have an attorney and a “grand jury” at court, to have a prompt public trial by a jury of our peers, to have information regarding any pending cases, to have all testimony and evidence to be presented publicly in court, to have witnesses testify in our behalf and, in most cases, to obtain bail. If found guilty, we cannot be sentenced to cruel or unusual punishment and we cannot be tried twice for this same crime.

NINETH AMENDMENT

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

  • Other Freedoms: This amendment asserts the principle that the enumerated rights are not exhaustive and final and that the listing of certain rights does not deny or disparage the existence of other rights. For instance, we are free to join any political party, to access free public education, to have any desired possessions, to travel, live, or work at any place we aspire to, and to marry and raise a family if we wish to do so.

TENTH AMENDMENT

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

  • Freedom of Federalism: Each state has the freedom and power to act independently from the federal government when not in conflict with the Constitution.
man hands patterned with the flag of the United States forming a heart and the sentence independence day

Reflexions

This Independence Day, we are encouraged to reflect on the greatness of America as a model of democracy and a free nation. Despite all the bad news we see on TV day in and day out, we must still be thankful that we live in a relatively free country. We are fortunate enough that we don’t live under a dictatorial rule and that we have pretty much full autonomy to live our lives as we please.

We are fortunate to live in a place where we can achieve upward mobility and live a happy and productive life unharmed in spite of our skin color, background, or religion because we “all are created equal”. These cornerstone rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” are what make The United States a great democracy.

However, we can’t be blind to the fact that over the past couple of years, some of our liberties have not being totally respected. Let me give you some examples. Lockdowns can be seen as constitutionally questionable since they are not based on the pure idea of a quarantine. Quarantines were created, in the early 1300s in Europe, to stave off the plague. A period of forty days used to be imposed upon ships when they were suspected of carrying a contagious disease in order to prevent it’s spread. Quarantines were meant for sick people, not supposed to be imposed on healthy people.

The current lockdowns declared a state of emergency and passed drastic measures that can be seen as violations to our amendments. These “stay-at-home” mandates ordered every citizen to halt gatherings, suspend all religious services, maintain social distancing, wear masks, stop working and attending school, and close all businesses not considered essential. These orders sacrificed our civil liberties, such as the 1st and 9th amendments, to deal with the virus. 

Nowadays, we see more ways in which our freedoms are being compromised. For instance, there is more censorship taking place. Now, it is not uncommon to see people’s social media accounts being closed when they say something that the majority of people don’t agree with. People are also being punished for making decisions related to their bodies – some have lost their jobs due to avoiding the lates COVID-19 vaccine. Furthermore, the idea of digital surveillance through GPS phone applications, tracking people’ geolocation and their contacts, raises important questions on privacy.

Personal Freedoms

Beyond the current political climate, this 4th of July is a good day to think about your own Personal Freedom as well. Do you feel that you have all the freedom you desire? Do you feel captive at your job or in a relationship? Do you feel at liberty to have the body that you want? Are you free to enjoy good health or are you enslaved by medical conditions?

Maybe reflecting during this day can help you set forward all your plans towards independence. For instance, if you have medical conditions or are not in a fit state, you may be preventing yourself from doing many things you desire. Simultaneously, if you are not in control of your financial destiny, you may also be more contricted in life. Maybe this day, you can declare your freedom. Maybe you can think about how to position your life in ways that allow you to be freer in many areas of your life so you can have a more fulfilling life.

This weekend, as you celebrate the Fourth of July, include in your celebration some time to give thanks for the liberty and freedoms you have and to reflect on what you need to change. Let’s remember Jefferson, “the liberties we have are the gift of God. We would do well to not forget that” and put into application what Albert Camus said, “freedom is nothing but a chance to be better”.

To a Fitter Healthier You,

Adriana Albritton

The Fitness Wellness Mentor

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