IMG_9937To celebrate the 4th of July, we took a trip to Madison Square Park, named after one of the architects of American liberty, President James Madison. Give him partial credit for the Constitution and even more so the Bill of Rights — though the man also owned slaves, so there you go. Feet of clay. In any event, there we were, on the very spot where, in 1876, the right arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty stood on display as money was raised to fund the rest of the statue’s construction. An early Kickstarter project, if you will. And it got us thinking about liberty and independence.

IMG_9979It’s easy to define “liberty” as freedom and leave it at that. But how often do one-word definitions suffice to illuminate complex and important concepts? Liberty is indeed freedom, but more specifically it’s the freedom to do as one pleases — to pursue happiness in one’s own way, without undue restriction. Now, reasonable people can disagree about what restrictions might be due or undue, but the general principle of liberty is to err on the side of presuming that restrictions are undue until proven otherwise.

Prove to me that the sight of my breasts is harmful when the sight of a man’s is not, and then you can restrict me from taking my shirt off. Otherwise — allow me my liberty, and my pursuit of happiness.

IMG_9744IMG_9947IMG_0062Now, independence. Clearly, the opposite of dependence — so not relying on someone else’s support, or requiring someone else’s permission, or subject to someone else’s control. An independent woman makes her own decisions based on her own best judgments. She won’t always be right — who is? — but she’s free to choose her own path. She doesn’t wait to be told what to do or refrain from doing as she wishes just because someone else might not look glowingly on her choices. She is not dependent on the opinion of others. She is independent, and at liberty.

We are independent and at liberty.

IMG_0042So when we sit down in the park, under the sun, and take our shirts off in accordance with the laws of New York but in violation of some folks’ sense of decorum or propriety, it is with an acute appreciation of our freedom. We know most women don’t have the same freedom we do. And even those that do — our fellow New Yorkers — are often unaware of it, or cowed into not exercising it.

IMG_0032Our job, as we see it, is to exercise our liberty without hesitation or pause, and to educate our fellow citizens about theirs.

IMG_9810No girl should grow up believing her body is anything to be ashamed of, or something that ought to be hidden when her male cousins and siblings and friends are free to bare theirs gleefully, innocently and without criticism.

IMG_9712Knowing it, believing it, and living it — that’s freedom. That’s liberty.

IMG_9722Happy Independence Day, everyone.