What Laura is Thinking: On Interdependence


I am thinking about interdependence.  

I woke up on the 4th of July to beautiful weather and a day off for me and my family. How wonderful. And why: because of independence or because of interdependence?

Executive Director, Laura Van Zandt

Do any of us function truly independently? Does anyone have all the capacities necessary to live a full life? When the framers talked about independence, they described the ability to have control over our own bodies – physical or governmental – without undue influence from others (people or governments).  Alongside that independence is interdependence in that our person must connect, engage, and in some cases rely on other persons. Our government must connect, engage, and in some cases rely on other governmental bodies. The two go together. They must. The framers knew this, for just prior to placing their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, a dangerous and radical act, the founding fathers wrote, “for the support of this Declaration… we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Declaring independence was something they did with each other, for each other – not alone for their self-interests. Interdependence was something to celebrate not dread. And it went hand in hand with independence.

It is true that in making this declaration, the founding fathers did ignore that their new union was not living up to what was deemed “self-evident, that all men are created equal” – with the endurance of American slavery and decades to pass before non-white men would be included in this grand statement. On July 4, 1852, Frederick Douglass held this hypocrisy up to the light in his address to New York abolitionists, asking “Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it.”

It seems that in our current climate, interdependence is forgotten. Connection, engagement, shared commitments – all of these seem to be eschewed as weak. In fact, this is where we find strength. Yes, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were declared as inalienable rights, and yet we continue to find ways to reduce those rights to faint shadows – at the national level and with each other. Relationships should be built on mutual respect, agency and dignity. Whether in community or in intimacy, relationships thrive when we appreciate difference, celebrate strengths and hold each other in weakness – without exploitation or shame – and when we build each other up rather than tear each other down. We are stronger when we see our common humanity, appreciate our differences, and move forward together, to build healthy communities, relationships and individuals.

I am enjoying some time with my family today while others are working to deliver my newspaper, make sure there is electricity for our air conditioning, keep the roads safe, operate the MBTA so we can see the fireworks in Boston, run a successful company that can underwrite a Boston tradition on the 4th, prepare and serve food, staff the hospitals just in case, and of course, answer the REACH hotline and work at the REACH shelter. All of you will do your own part – driving a friend or family member to school, work or an appointment; working hard to provide for your family (near and maybe far away); volunteering in your community (maybe with REACH, maybe with another organization); sustaining your faith community to provide fellowship and support to members and those in need (here and abroad); or participating in your school community to create opportunities for all children (yours and your neighbors’ too). So “let (these) facts be submitted to a candid world” – it is interdependence that makes us great and strong. It is the ways we live in relationship with one another that will determine our future.

Together we will reach beyond domestic violence.