I have lived 4.5 years in the Middle East. Life here is wonderful in so many ways. So many ancient places and cultures. So much great food. So many people: Christians and Muslims from a dozen Arab countries, Westerners and Easterners from around the globe, have all afforded me an opportunity to get to know God, mankind, my country, my family, and myself a bit more. It’s great to have places to stay on every continent!
But each of the three 9/11 anniversaries I’ve experienced here is hard. I’ve heard nice comments, less-than-nice comments, and no comments at all. Yet part of me wants to hear nothing from anyone unless it honors the memory of my countrymen who died that terrible day. Or a comment that honors my nation — its many flaws and sins notwithstanding. Or a comment about my God. Or a comment about my family. I care little whether it’s a British atheist, an Egyptian soldier, a Lebanese journalist, a conservative Arabian Sunni, or an evangelical from South Africa. I want politics and criticism of the place and people and faith which God lets me call “mine” (though all are His) to be off the menu for just one day.
But…I don’t always get my wish. And you know, that’s okay. God never created mankind to get our wish! He made us to follow Him faithfully. I’m reminded of Alfred Lord Tennyson famous poem:
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns,” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
With that in mind, I want to offer my own constructive criticism (now that it is 9/12) — which doubles as a prayer and a hope for all the people in America, and for those who love God and / or freedom anywhere in the world. Yet it is not mine, but wisdom that comes from great Americans of old. Perhaps the first verses of these songs are the most famous. But it’s verses two and three of “America, the Beautiful” (1), verse four of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” (2), and verse four of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (3) that illuminate the true path to “liberty and justice for all.”
1 – by Katharine Lee Bates
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine.
2 – by Samuel Francis Smith
Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.
3 – by Francis Scott Key
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!