Independence. In-dependence. The act of depending in one self. Relying on one’s self to navigate life.
This is a big word for people. For countries. For the world.
It is also a big part in development. Toddlers and teens are renowned for their extraordinary behavior during the developmental stages where one recognizes he is a separate entity from his parents, community, etc, and can behave as such. Interesting to note that these stages are wrought with internal and external struggle, as the toddler or teen struggles to be his or her own self, while simultaneously resisting the ultimate separation from his/her parents that is necessary in order to do so.
A country that fights and dies for its independence also struggles to create its own identity in the world.
Finding oneself separate from a leading center, finding oneself dependent on one’s own mind, wisdom, intuition, heart for guidance – that is a scary process. One must formulate opinions, show confidence, be assertive. Be firm. He must be willing to know when he does not know something, and admit he needs help, while maintaining strength and independence. Scary. New. Uncomfortable.
Hence all the strife and challenge surrounding the two-three year old stage and the 12-17 year old phase.
The struggle for independence.
As parents, if we understand the underlying blueprint of these phases, we can navigate them more sensitively, precisely, and successfully. Successful meaning a well adjusted toddler/teen who knows they are independent of their parents at the same time that they feel a strong and unwavering connection and flow of support from those parents. A child who knows he has opinions, desires, his own physical body and spiritual soul, his own dreams and aspirations, and yet can function fluidly alongside others knowing he is loved, accepted as he is, a strong and beautiful child. Someone who can express his opinions or desires in a confident and polite manner, and know when to assert himself and when to withdraw.
This definition applies to the two year old who is learning more the aspect of physical independence – I am a separate entity from my mother. I can move and play and breathe alongside her and yet not need to be beside her to exist. I can play with a group of children in the center of the room while my mom sits on the couch because she is always there for me, her existence is consistent and solid in my life, and on that stable foundation I can act and behave independently.
And to the 14 year old who is learning the aspect of intellectual independence - who desperately wants to fit in with her friends, and yet realizes she has her own differing opinions, and finds herself in a dilemma – to be the independent soul I know I am, and risk saying something that others might not agree with, or mold myself into the person everyone agrees with? It is the parents who build the foundation for the child to feel safe and secure and even happy to express her uniqueness. It is the parents who fuel that child’s sense of security and acceptance so that she can fully express her healthy independence in the world.
And what happens when the toddler/teen is not allowed to or does not feel free or confident to express herself? We all know the answer to that: tantrums. In the toddler it is the scream or hold my breath until you pay attention to me scheme. In the teen it can be slightly more dangerous, or extremely so. I am forced to mold to the norms set by parents/teachers/friends – so I will express my individuality in making my own decisions and controlling my life. Rebellion. It can be as “harmless” as talking back, missing curfew, skipping class, or as extreme as choosing the wrong friends, going to unapproved parties, sneaking out at night. Drinking, drugs. Etcetera. I will assert myself, lest my identity die.
And as a nation.
As a nation, we can struggle to find our own beauty, our own mind, and suffer much for the consequences. In defining our own physical independence we fight bloody wars and suffer tragic losses. We send our young men and women, as well as our husbands and fathers, out on the roads and into enemy territory to defend our borders within and without.
In defending and exploring and asserting our intellectual independence, we come across cruel and biased politic, unjust world opinion, and to our great detriment, suffer great blows to our self-confidence that silence our true beliefs and stifle the expression of our own mind. Tantrums exist here as well. When a nation has had to stay silent for long enough, or has tried to assert herself with conservative measures that have proven unfruitful, or if her independence is being threatened to the point of national death – then tantrums rear their ugly heads in the form of war. It is the final gasp for breath that says: we are an independent nation that will try to live politely and within the boundaries set by our world. But if our nationhood is threatened, if we have stifled ourselves or repressed ourselves to the point where we are on the brink of being unrecognizable as the nation that we are, then we MUST ACT out and show the world our true beauty. Stand up for our physical and intellectual boundaries.
That is how a nation stays alive.
This past Thursday Israel celebrated its independence. It is a beautiful sight to walk down the street, drive down the highway, and see all the blue and white. Children dressed in white shirts and blue pants/skirts. Cars and homes decked out with Israeli flags flying from windows, light poles, streamers. And yet this beauty always follows a day of extreme sorrow – Remembrance Day, when we remember and mourn all those who have fallen in defense of our fierce independence.
It always seems such a difficult transition, the one from Remembrance Day to Independence Day. But there is a deep wisdom there. We remember, through the tears and the loss and the grief, the scars of our tantrums. We remember the wounds that don’t heal, the aftermath of our need to assert ourselves so extremely.
It moves us to pray and plead that we may represent our identity with confidence and support and acceptance on a regular and healthy basis. It moves us to stand strong for our identity and remember that if we truly depend inwardly – if we act on our own inner wisdom and guidance – we may come to know the peace we long for. The peace of being an independent nation, recognized for its unique positions and beliefs, and one that has clear physical boundaries that are solid and strong and do not require 24/7 defense.
We are a beautiful nation, with beautiful character, strong beliefs that we uphold, a generous nature, and a striking physical countenance – snowy hills, magnificent desert, blue-green seas, and running streams.
May we always and forever wear our white and blue proudly and with ease and grace. May we always and forever wave our flag in a proud and unmitigated display of our independent nature. May we move past the threats to our independence with finesse and just the right balance of assertiveness and politeness to avoid war.
May we, as people, and as a nation, be successful in churning out confident, unique, independent-minded and independent-souled individuals , to create the same in our nationhood.
Am Yisrael Chai.