For most, July 4th in the United States means barbeques and children running around with sparklers and fireworks and beer and sitting out on lawn chairs and asking how the traffic was and talking about how great it is to not have to work for a day.
Of course, it’s also a celebration of the declaration of independence, the moment when, in theory, a new nation was born in which its citizens have the full right to chase after that much lauded Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
For those of us who were born free and will likely never know a day of real oppression or persecution, it’s difficult to imagine what it’s like to live in a more dimly lit corner of the world.
Take North Korea, for example. Recent economic reforms have had the effect of throwing the same old-same old fashion scene into chaos.
Three years after North Korea introduced reforms to breathe life into its crippled economy, individuals who have made it big there are spending their new-found wealth on the few consumer options that allow them to flaunt their money, the Dong-a Ilbo daily reported from the North Korean capital.
The fashion accessories of choice for people who have been able to acquire capital in the communist state are no longer just red portrait badges of the late founder Kim Il-sung. The well-off women of North Korea prefer pink dresses and umbrellas, it said.
The women and a few men also opt for bright red rubber rain boots and men have shed the jump-suit style clothes favoured by current leader Kim Jong-il, for colourful shirts.
So color is now spreading through the afflicted and oppressed North Korean countryside. Well, more likely a few selected city streets of Pyongyang, but the point is that freedom has the ability to take marvelous and unexpected and random and chaotic forms.
It’s a little bit like that scene in Pleasantville, when a slight crack in the staid status quo forever and irrevocably added color to a previously black-and-white world.
It’s a pretty great thing, actually.
So, whether everyone out there comes from the liberal or conservative or libertarian or progressive or I-could-give-a-good-god-damned side of the political spectrum, the 4th of July is a time to take a step back, crack a brew (or a soda, if that’s your wont) and wish freedom and peace and individual expression for the rest of the planet.
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