“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” – Anita Desai
Self-imposed borders shrink your world. They restrict understanding and appreciation of cultures and history. In short, walls imprison.
To journey through Hungry, Slovakia and the Czech Republic is to step on the cobblestone ground where common men and women of my generation bled and died in the streets to win their independence. Their definition of freedom is fresh and real compared to Americans who haven’t spilled blood on their soil since the Civil War. Every language spoken on earth can be heard walking through Town Square and across the Charles Bridge in Prague. Every shade of skin, type garb and style of hair is represented, yet smiles on faces and awe in the expressions are all the same in this magical city of 12th Century churches and a 13th Century bridge.
In the early months of 1969 Jan Palach and Jan Zajic set themselves on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest Communist rule near the end of Prague Spring leading to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Residents in countries from Budapest to Prague all share similar stories about drab buildings in disrepair, bleak prospects on life, and the gloomy atmosphere before they won their independence. Once free of oppressive Communist rule investment began to trickle in to their countries, then poured in, entrepreneurs started businesses and hope returned.
A little-known rallying point to visitors in Prague is the John Lennon Wall where young people would gather and paint slogans of freedom and love that the Communists would wash off again and again until it became futile and the resistance became so strong the Communist decided they must let it go. It was the time leading to the Velvet Revolution in 1989 when the people won their freedom without a shot fired.
On this Independence Day let us not take our freedom for granted. Let us not allow our leaders to define freedom as exclusive. Let us not allow our leaders repress our voice.