Independence Day: UH community members define freedom


The Fourth of July celebrates freedom in the U.S., but in the UH community that freedom isn’t as straightforward as it seems. | Henry Sturm/The Cougar

Independence Day is meant to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 which gave U.S. citizens equality and the right to pursue happiness.

But fast forward 200 years, and the definition of independence differs throughout the UH community.

Assistant professor in political theory Alin Fumurescu said he believes the Declaration of Independence is a remarkable document, mostly for what it does not say.

“(German political theorist) Hannah Arendt thought that by not specifying if the now famous ‘pursuit of happiness’ refers to a public or private happiness, the Declaration promoted an ambiguity with long-lasting consequences,” he said.

Fumurescu said he is excited by this ambiguity, and he continuously questions how different cultures and ideologies define these terms of freedom and independence.

Photography junior Gabriel Guerrero said freedom and independence are the ability to fully express oneself without any judgment.

As a transfer student from Houston Baptist University Guerrero took a Christianity class while there. Being gay, he didn’t feel free though, as his class condemned those out of the norm, such as homosexuals.

Guerrero said that while everyone is free, freedom is sometimes abused in an effort to undermine others’ independence.

For custodial staff member Christian Ramos, who moved to Houston two years ago from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, freedom and independence depend on what life gives you.

“I am neither free nor independent because of my language barrier. I am limited to a certain freedom because I don’t speak English,” Ramos said. “One isn’t free to have a voice. (And) money speaks.”

To maintenance staff member Carlos Dixon, freedom and independence define who you are. But he said that such freedom is rarely seen.

“Some people don’t live their life based on how they believe, but (rather) how others believe,” Dixon said. “(They) feel how other people want them to.”

Psychology senior Emma Coronado mirrors Dixon’s sentiments.

“If what you’re doing means to you as it once did, then keep thinking it,” Coronado said. “but if it doesn’t make sense anymore, then why are you following it?”

Emma Coronado said freedom and independence are an idea society is striving for, but isn’t close to attaining.

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