Perhaps one way to amplify our recognition of Independence Day in America is to take part in the Emily Dickinson custom of debating loss versus gain.  I suppose Dickinson’s pleasant sense of well-being about “one Day” preceded this lyric reflection that:

Had this one Day not been,
Or could it cease to be

How smitten, how superfluous,
Were every other Day!

Lest Love should value less
What Loss would value more

Had it the stricken privilege,
It cherishes before.

On this national celebration of independence from the mother country England, I’m inclined to feel very warm and friendly to the people around me. “Had this one Day not been, / Or could it cease to be”, my awareness of sharing a common destiny with believers in democracy would not exist.

Without the progress in democratic ideals and ambitions as reflected in establishment of an America independent of monarchy in the 18th Century, where would I be? Where the world? Would I be able to extend emotional or physical support to anyone I feel needs it? Would I live were generosity and giving are recognized as viable and valued traits? Would personal goals and ambitions have any significance in the culture that outlines my reality?

If not, “How smitten, how superfluous, / Were every other Day!”

The poem assists in my effort to imagine such a fate. Of all the words to select in this brief poem, “smitten” and “superfluous” are here as indicators of what that fate might be. Two words that do not seem to me ordinarily good companions in language’s campaign to describe – well – anything.

Yet, there they are. Smitten can mean two entirely different things. Here’s what my online dictionary has:

smitten
adjective
1 “he was smitten with cholera” – struck down, laid low, suffering, affected, afflicted, plagued, stricken.
2 “Jane’s smitten with you” – infatuated with, besotted with, in love with, obsessed with, head over heels; enamored of, attracted to, taken with; captivated by, enchanted by, under someone’s spell, moonstruck by; (etc., etc.)

At first I’m inclined to select “stricken,” or, “laid low,” to imagine myself without freedom to vote, or make other personal choices. But, perhaps in not having been born into a democracy, the concept of freedom without its reality would render me forever “besotted with,” and, “enchanted” with democracy’s ideal.

The poem causes me to realize I am living my love of freedom, which leads to the luxury to take it for granted, “Lest Love should value less”. And, that  not to be coaxed by familiarity into neglecting its everyday value would be to live in a country where citizens are exploited by cruel monarchies and oppressive despots: “What Loss would value more”.

In a life where there are everyday terrors, or wearisome intrusions for those who stay out of the spotlight, it is indeed a “stricken privilege” to have a mental picture of what freedom would be like.

To be compelled to live according to the discretion of the powerful would do battle with any attempt at integrity and make me feel superfluous, as the poem describes in line three.  Yet, the assumption, the demand of every newborn is a fundamental right, “It cherishes before.” It doesn’t particularly matter what “before.”  To say, “before what?” disregards the intrinsic nature of a sense of freedom, with which all humans are born, and, which the framers of the U.S. Constitution immortalized.

America does not represent a “Pollyanna” view of reality that refuses to recognize trouble and pain in the world, but of a real sense of belonging to the family of the earth.

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way

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