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For Love of country

The Trinidad Express newspaper runs a daily feature where people are asked what they love about Trinidad and Tobago. The answers are invariably the same.

People say they love our diversity, our unique culture, our joie de vivre, our cuisine, our hospitality, and generosity. These positive sentiments are juxtaposed daily with stories of rampant crime, flooding, potholed roads, and a litany of stress, pain, and suffering.

At Independence, 61 years ago, we declared to the world that we were united in aspiration and in achievement. We solemnly promised ourselves that we would be disciplined, productive, and tolerant. We promoted the tremendous value of education when we told our children that the future of the nation lay in their school bags.

The road to the aspirations and promises of 1962 was not easy. We were buoyed by the cocoa and sugar industries, boosted even more when oil came along.

But we had to struggle for universal adult suffrage, for the rights of working people, for representative government and, for some of us, for religious freedom and respect for our cultures.

Our society was divided by class, by race, by religion, and by geography. There was discrimination and distrust. Yet we were able to craft an Independence Constitution, by no means perfect, with which most of our new citizens could live.

Since Independence, the journey has not always been smooth. More oil and then enormous quantities of natural gas strengthened the energy sector and boosted government revenues. But periods of boom were followed by periods of bust, made worse by the heightened expectations a booming economy had generated.

An attempted coup, political turmoil, and rising crime and criminality ensued. The education system failed generations of young people, especially our young males in the urban areas. They were lured into gangs and the drug trade which brought violence, kidnapping and murders.

Leadership in politics, business, religion, and civil society has been unable to turn the tide, so that as we approach our 61st anniversary, cries of despair and lament threaten to drown out the calls for responsibility and collective action. Emigration and capital flight are said to be on the rise. We call on God to put a hand.

So, who are we? What have we become six decades after Independence? We are, we must be, we must become the people we aspired to be in August 1962 – disciplined, productive, tolerant, prepared to search for compromises that benefit us all.

For Christians, we know that earthly life is never and can never be perfect. We know at a personal level that trials, pain, and suffering come with the package of human life. We know that God gives us grace to meet and overcome these trials.

We know that love enables us to handle any and all adversity.

Just as God’s grace and love operates in our personal lives, so too they are expressed, through us, in the life of our nation. We must meet the current trials of our nation, not with despair, lamentation, and flight, but with an even deeper love for our country and its wonderful diverse, talented, and creative people.

As our nation’s difficulties appear to get worse, let our love for our nation grow stronger, let our voices grow stronger in praise of what is good and in condemnation of what is bad, and let our actions be bold and fearless in the defence of our national values.

God will help us, but we must meet Him half-way!

Happy Independence Day.