This month we celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the horrendous terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As I have been reflecting on what happened and how it impacted me, I cannot help but think about some of the famous lines connected to our country: “Land of the free and home of the brave.”, “One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.”. But for some unknown reason the poem “The New Colossus” has come first to my mind (the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty):
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These mottos are imbedded within us and if taken seriously can have a tremendous impact on our world. We are meant to strive for their ideals, being brave enough to allow everyone liberty even if that is somewhat frightening. As I look around, particularly as I think about the presidential election, I question where are these mottos, where are these controlling values in the public forum? Imagine what it means to be the “Mother of exiles”, to make refugees feel welcome, even if they do have different values. “Mother of exiles” caring for those who are in our midst who do not have as much. If we truly value these mottos we cannot push people out because they are poor and needy, nor, can we allow them to live in misery. PBS did a story on education last night that said that income inequality was the leading factor in how well a child was educated in this country. How is this justice for all, when some automatically start behind, they will never have the resources available to their neighbors. In the Land of the Free and home of the Brave we should be brave enough to bring everyone up to the same educational level. (I.e. quit hoarding money).
We as Christians and Americans want and proclaim ideals like freedom, courage, justice, and reverence for God. I have asked myself if we as Americans have been holding to these principles since that fateful day fifteen years ago, and has the Church led the way in upholding these ideals. Are we a place that provides safety and security for those in need? Are we brave enough to trust our neighbors, even when we are intimidated by them? Do we, like God, allow people their freedom of thought while subtly trying to bring them under God’s reign?
Do we still want to be the brave? Are we those who do not cower in fear, running away from tough situations, or taking the easy way out. Do we still want to live by Lady Liberty’s words, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,”? This is not a statement that we will allow the dregs of other societies an opportunity to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. This is a promise that we will act as, “Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome”. We lift up the poor and downtrodden, we do not isolate them we take them in and help them rise. These are our voiced ideals, to be brave in the face of danger, to shelter the weak and defenseless, to be a beacon of hope. We remember the attacks fifteen years ago, and we should redouble our efforts at keeping our ideals. After all, have we not said that we were attacked because of our ideals?
The narrative after 9/11 was that we were attacked for our values, if that is the case we must put great effort into holding onto our claimed values. Being brave enough to provide shelter and help for the needy, whoever they may be, raising up the downtrodden. In the midst of this is the Church, the organization most committed to these ideals. As the world remembers 9-11-2001 we have to commit to leading the way in these ideals. Being the beacon for others to follow, calling on the others to look to our example. We are the people most free, hopefully with the most courage, and definitively striving hardest to place ourselves under God. As you reflect on the attacks ask yourself where can I live out these ideals in my own life and community.