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  • Writer's picturesadie.speaks

Let Freedom Ring


"Some folks whispered, some folks talked

But everybody looked the other way

When time ran out there was no one about

Let the weak be strong

Let the guilty pay

It's Independence Day"...

Gretchen Peters, Lyrics

Martina McBride, Artist

“Independence Day” was recorded by McBride in 1994, 20 years later being deemed one of the 100 greatest country songs of all time by Rolling Stone. Nominated for multiple awards, the year of release it won the CMA’s Video of the Year award, and Song of the Year in 1995.

The song tells the story from the perspective of an 8-year-old girl whose mother is physically abused by her alcoholic father. On the same day as US Colonies declared independence from English rule, the mother claims independence from her abuser in a deliberate act of arson. (

I love this song. I listen to it loud and long. I turn it up and turn down my windows. I feel empowered and strong and full of survivor revenge and freedom. I wrap my ponytail in red, white and blue, stick my tongue out to the world in Kiss-like defiance and head to my own personal fireworks show. You're gonna' hear me Rawr!

Many artists address domestic violence in their music. Emotion evokes music. And domestic violence and sexual abuse are deeply emotional, if nothing more. My personal favorites are Celine Dion and Martina McBride. Carrie Underwood hits as way too vengeful and contrived for me (though I am an Underwood fan) and I haven't listened enough to Miranda Lambert or the Chicks to give review. Country music seems to specialize in the cause though every musical genre offers a rendering of these social injustices.

No matter, music resonates with survivors and 'Independence Day' resonates with a whole nation -- it is often the title track at July 4th festivals screaming its lyrics behind the lit-up sky of fireworks.

But I wonder. I question. I ask. Is this the essential message we want to communicate to those caught in the web of violence and abuse? Is revenge the ultimate freedom? Does empowerment only come in the form of more fighting, more violence, more hatred, more anger and a life of unforgiveness?

This is complicated.

I feel very empowered by the idea that abusers will 'get justice' and that willful arson will 'light up the sky on the fourth of July' as Martina McBride croons. But there's more to the song. (full lyrics here)

The rest of the story from the song:

  • an 8 year old goes to the fair in town, alone, because she felt in the way

  • same child gets taken to the county home after police & firemen come in the aftermath of her home burning down at the hands of her mother

  • child has already witnessed a life of her father being dangerous and abusive

  • child has already determined that society doesn't care and will not intervene

And there are real-life stories, too. Among news stories old and new, you find women who murdered their husbands and committed their own crimes in desperation, yes. In feeling they had no other recourse, yes. Because a gun or a knife or a car rammed into his body would just 'make it stop', true. Because theft and drugs and leaving your children behind in neglect seemed a better hell than the abuse. But the fall out and the consequences of these decisions weigh heavy on all the survivors--and is prison a greater freedom? Is the media frenzy around your personal justice and revenge a real exodus from your Egypt? Is a life of bitterness and unforgiveness and the daydreaming that your abuser would die gruesome deaths or have body parts cut from them or never see success or freedom from their own personal demons really a way to live? Is this a true independence day to finally arrive at the freedom to hate?

I have spent much time on survivor sites and in self-help groups, reading many survivor stories. Many of the sites, often anecdotal, play to our lower natures and want to empower in this way. Justice comes at the price of shackling oneself to emotional prisons that aren't true freedom. The tradeoff wounds us as well. Sometimes the 'advocates' turn into suffragettes and surrogates for causes that harm rather than heal, that take us captive to mindsets and ideologies that don't serve us as we leave a life of abuse. Hear me, a vortex of emotional upheaval with the constant reminder of all that is bad in the world (namely, your abusers and every other detail of other abusers' crimes) can distract from the autonomy you wish to have from abusive circles.

Rachael Denhollander, in her full impact statement, at the trial of Dr. Larry Nassar (who sexually abused her and hundreds of girls on his therapy table) eloquently describes justice and forgiveness in tandem-- she was nauseated and angry at his actions, wanting repentance and justice (prison time and reparations) for him yet, clear and true to a Biblical mandate (and her own personal ethos to follow that mandate) wanted to offer grace and forgiveness to him and all those who turned a blind eye. It is the great balancing act of the ages. Her testimony, a lesson in freedom.

Being able to freely choose forgiveness in the face of domestic violence or sexual abuse is independence. It is its own victorious conquering. It is a freedom from bitterness. It is the emancipation from hardness. In my opinion, it feels like the ultimate revenge. What the perpetrator hoped to reduce me to has resulted in the ultimate fireworks show in celebration that my soft and tender flag of spirit still flies. I will not turn into a violent understudy of my abuser-- I will not chant the hopes of his demise.

'I Decided a Long Time Ago' is one of my most recent poems, written in April. It echoes my all-time favorite quote and my purposeful resistance to become a bitter or hardened old woman holding onto revenge as an antidote to abuse.

There are better ways to be free from abuse than the songs tell us. There are better ways to talk about survival and healing and freedom from our abusers than many survival sites tell us. If you are in a vulnerable place with an abusive partner or a dangerous situation, please reach out for help at: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or TTY 1.800.787.3224 or text 88788

You've heard it said, "Freedom isn't free". And maybe when it comes to being fully unshackled from a life of abuse, from the past that haunts, one of the costs and high prices that returns the highest dividend and value is forgiveness. Maybe that's the truest day of reckoning. Maybe that's the very best way to right the wrong. Maybe that's the only way to truly make weak survivors strong. And maybe that's the most beautiful way to light up the sky this fourth of July.

"Therefore come what may, hold fast to love. Though men should rend your heart, let them not embitter or harden it. We win by tenderness, we conquer by forgiveness.”

I Decided Long Ago…

I don’t want to be an advocate

Or a suffragette

I don’t want to be an isolate

Or a surrogate

I don’t want to take up the sword

Punch a pillow; slam a door

Rise from the ashes

Settle a score

I don’t want to be hard

Scarred; forever marred

Raising a fist

Starting wars.

I’d rather tuck it all away

Only bring it out on rainy days

See sunshine; run from grey

Beg for another way to say

I was beaten

I was groomed

I was misused; used and abused

All my worst parts, exhumed

I’d rather not admit it

I’d rather just forget it

But when it lingers, it lingers long

I lose my footing — I lose my song

But I decided long ago

I’m going to stay tender

Forgive the offender

Let healing and hope

Be a cosmic miraculous mind-bender

I’m going to love

I’m going to find my voice of hope

That leads you to healing from above

Safely, to that sacred throne

I’m going to leave Egypt

In freedom

I’m going to touch

His garment’s hem for healing

I’m not going to stop singing

And laughing

Sometimes through tears

A life of joy, crafting

This old world wants hate to win

And vies for anger to contend

And the more you feel sad

It cheers and thinks you are trendy and rad

But I decided long ago

To follow at the feet of Jesus

Who rises with healing in his wings

Makes dancers out of mourners

Gives joy in the morning

Loves His enemies

Comforts pain

Heals broken-hearted

Helps the needy

Hears prayers

I’m not going to turn back

Because some man threw a punch

Called me horrible names and such

Said I was unworthy to be me

Tainted all that was good and holy

I have an Advocate

Who has given me the rights

To join Him

He, the perfect surrogate

Taking my place

So that by His wounds I am healed

His love for the world, my weapon

His tenderness, forgiving

He rose from the ashes

And by that power, I rise too

I decided a long time ago

To follow Jesus

No turning back

No turning back

Even the evil men


On ruining my life; tempting sin

With memories that haunt and offend

Aren’t that strong;

They won’t win

Because I’m going to forgive them

Again, and again

I decided long ago

To hold fast to love

and to let forgiveness win.

I decided long ago

To Jesus I will go

11:20 pm


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