Today, May 17, is Independence Day in Norway. The date commemorates the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1814 that ended a 100 year coalition with Sweden and, prior to that, 400 years of Danish rule.
Nearly every country in the world has a national day that celebrates their liberation from some other power. The U.S.A celebrates on July 4, Canada on July 1, Australia on January 1 (that’s summer down under). France has Bastille Day, July 14, to commemorate the abolition of feudalism and the arbitrary rule of the King. Even England, the country from which many nations of the world today won their freedom, has Magna Carta Day on June 15, to celebrate a cornerstone in the development of a modern, parliamentary democracy. Just as children grow up and leave home, mature nations are eager to be autonomous — but with favourable trade agreements in place.
The same thing happens in families. As we grow up, we demand independence, but at the same time we strive for connections. This seems to be an eternal struggle of the human condition, autonomy vs connectedness. It’s also a rich source of inspiration for writers. How many times have you read about a heroine who is determined to escape the stifling influence of her family/job/school/location, only to then find herself adrift and desperately seeking a deep connection with another. I’ve just finished writing a short story where the heroine struggles with this problem. Does she carry on as expected or does she break free? Does freedom mean loneliness? The story is part of a collection that celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday.
Our independence from Britain was a gradual process. We went to war in 1914 because England declared war on Germany. In 1929 the Privy Council of Britain was the final court of appeal for a group of Canadian women seeking to have females declared “persons” under the law. It wasn’t until 1982 that our last legal ties with Britain ended with the patriation of our constitution. Just like nations, families break apart in various ways, some with anger and violence, like South Sudan, others more peacefully.
The desire for independence vs the yearning for deep connections seems to be one of those universal truths of the human condition. For writers, that’s a good thing. We need only to look at our own families to find grist for the story mill.