The Connection to Freedom
I have a bit more fitness freedom this summer. This flexibility opened the doors of Planet Fitness over the 4th of July holiday. My eyes skimmed the rows of cardio machines and then the televisions. I selected a treadmill on the end and took a closer look at the entertainment options in my eyeline. Return of the Jedi? Really? I was pleasantly surprised. That would make this running segment more enjoyable.
I returned the next day for part two of the workout and selected the same treadmill. I focused on the TVs once again. I smiled. A New Hope. Huh? I was at the gym in the afternoon the day before and today in the morning so the movies must be on a loop, a marathon for the holiday weekend. I had already seen several advertised on TV at home. For example, Roseanne was running nonstop, a nod to small town America, I assumed. But why Star Wars? What exactly was the connection to the 4th of July?
My mind wandered while I jogged. Personally, I had a few political dots I could connect. I vividly remembered quoting Return of the Jedi in for my social studies methods class in college.
“Why did you lie to me?” Luke asks.
After a brief description of certain events, Obi-Wan responds, “So, what I told you was true. . . from a certain point of view.”
“A certain point of view?”
“Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”
While not as famously quoted, A New Hope had its own moment when Princess Leia informs Grand Moff Tarkin, “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”
(Unrelated Independence Day note-most officers in the Empire have British accents),
I soon abandoned deep thought for rapid breathing. That afternoon, I stood in front of the kitchen sink chugging water while my dad described the song choices being used for start up campaigns in full force on July 4th.
“Born in the USA? They’re not listening to the words. No connection.”
I was unfamiliar with the lyrics, but he continued.
“It’s about harm from the war. To those who returned from the war. And I hear they’re using that Carrie Underwood song, Independence Day, too.”
That song I knew. “Really? It’s about a girl escaping from a tragic end to her parents abusive relationship.”
The connection between those songs and the 4th of July was in name only. I suppose that no one would dig any deeper. Was that the justification for the Star Wars marathon too? While the songs were inappropriately matched with the 4th of July both had a connection to freedom. Perhaps the real trouble was that 4th of July wasn’t much connected to freedom.
I sat on my bed, considering Star Wars and another nation’s independence and dictatorship that would be the date of this blog post. July 9, Argentina. In a novel I wrote about the military dictatorship in the 1970s based on a literature fellowship that posited fact in fiction, I linked Star Wars to hope and doubt in the stories we tell ourselves, a consistent conversation piece for two of the main characters. I made specific edits for one of the characters after a conversation with my brother. He told me stories like Star Wars are Western. They assume an end, and that a happy one, a redeeming one is possible. This opinion has been corroborated by nonfiction I read since then which reminds that other cultures expect the worst and don’t believe that more bad increases the possibility of good the next time.
I tell my character, Ori, who I named after light, that he doesn’t have to choose the way we believe in our stories. But we do.
Standing in front of my dresser, I tugged the bottom drawer open and stared at T-shirt options. Now it was my turn to dig. Which was the best choice for the 4th?
The shirt my brother gave me with his unit’s warhorse logo? Definitely a lot to unpack around military intervention. The reality of independence.
My brand new Star Wars shirt with A New Hope art? The metaphor for independence.
How about my optimist tank top perfect for a hot summer weekend? The dream of independence.
Everyday we choose at least a little, the connections we acknowledge, to freedom.