The Complications of Freedom-A short excerpt


Huge showers of red and yellow and green and blue and white exploded on the sky, blossoming like giant willow trees. The booms were huge and square-sounding, echoing several times down the hills lining the river. Between explosions, blue smoke hung on the sky.
After a while, a sort of reverent silence fell upon us. All the children stopped running about and screaming, and everyone became still. Perhaps we were all understanding that we had been free for two hundred years, or as free as people can possibly be. I like to think that everyone was filled with a brief melancholy, a moment in which we took into account everything we had, and appreciated it all, and felt blessed and lucky to have been born in this country, in this time and space. Or maybe everyone was taking into account all of the wrongs done to others to gain this freedom, the freedom that had been taken from others for our gain.
My sister Josie...looked up at to the sky. Then she whispered to me: "I wonder if anybody else is thinking of the Indians, and the slaves, and the immigrants, and the way soldiers got sent off to die." Her eyes touched mine. "Do you think they are?"
"I don't know," I said, very quiet, as if speaking too loudly might break some spell that had befallen us. 
"I keep thinking about this thing I learned in history class last year," she said, watching the sky now. Her face went rose-tinted with the blast of firework. "At Gettysburg, these soldiers got sent into battle and they knew they were gonna die, but they went anyway. Now that's being brave," she said. "So what they did is, they wrote these short little letters to whomever they loved. And the best part is that they tied or nailed the letters to the trees."
I could picture this: a woods above the battleground, decorated by hundreds of little papers filled with cramped, old-times handwriting. "You know who I think about?" she said. "The soldiers who had to go and collect the letters off the trees the next day."
I looked out over the crowd, the faces being lit by all the different colors of the explosions, and wondered what they were thinking in this big silence that had spread over all of us. So many complicated thoughts and emotions and secrets. For a little while I felt like I was kin to everybody there, all connected by this night, this nation.

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