DEAR READERS: Happy Independence Day! I feel particularly sentimental about our country at this time. This may be, in part, because there has been so much controversy over what it means to be American, what is worth fighting for, what is worth dying for and what we value. The very fact that we can talk about our differing views means that, on one level at least, this great experiment in democracy is working. In many countries across the world, it is against the law to speak your mind, let alone tell other people to do so. We enjoy so many freedoms, but I fear that we are taking some for granted while clutching too frantically to others.
As one whose ancestors did not have the right to vote -- being both African-American and female -- I recognize the precious right that voting affords Americans. I take my daughter to every election, even the midterms that so many people skip. I want her to know that it is a right and a privilege to be able to have a voice in the electoral process. Sadly, I know many families who are not making the choice to vote regularly or to educate their children about the process.
I understand the many question marks that may stand in people's way. When our own Congress refuses to function according to the rules that it is supposed to follow, it can seem immaterial for a citizen to cast a vote. When individuals on both sides of the political aisle bicker with one another more than fighting for the good of the people, some people lose steam.
I want to challenge any and all of us who may be getting jaded thanks to the messiness of our political process: Even when things seem hopeless, I implore us all to look around at other countries in the world and recognize that our country offers more opportunities than most. The United States, as fractured as it sometimes seems, does allow the freedom for its citizens to grow and prosper. Are all of the laws fair -- at least in the way that they are enforced? No. Are all people equally safe? No. Are all people equally paid? No. But the great news is that we can continue to fight for equality for every single one of us.
As free Americans, we can express ourselves through our voices, our dollars and our votes. Because of the many fights that our country has fought for all manner of freedom, we know that the fight does not have to be for naught. We can make a difference. We can make our Union more perfect.
Each day, I answer your thoughtful questions about how to live harmoniously, with respect and dignity. Today, I remind us of our responsibility to support the greatness of our country on this day that reminds us of the promise of independence. Each one of us can and must make a difference by claiming our freedom with all our might. We must step into our responsibility as we stand up for what is right for us, our families, our communities and our country. -- Harriette
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)