Make America Great Again: That’s a bandwagon I want to jump on, but there is a problem. Remember the American proverb “The squeaky wheel gets the grease?” Yes, the most noticeable or loudest problems are the ones most likely to get attention. But, in this divided nation, “who” or “what” becomes the loudest problem?
We need only to look at Daniel 3:38 and Psalm 137. The talk is of exile here, when the bottom drops out or the bandwagon loses a wheel. We cry our lamentations with the psalmist: We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader (we have in our day no solid foundation, no one who comforts the disturbed or disturbs the comfortable, and we follow a cypher), no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense (only cold, fast food, cash registers that only receive, not give, smoke found only at funerals, nowhere else), no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you (only hand-me downs and food poisoning offered).
The only thing we can agree on is to agree to disagree rather than seek guidance from our dreamers and vision makers. Suddenly, our pedestals crumble and our ivory couches are rust-stained. Then, a village elder named Sagebush discovers a dusty parchment paper from the archives; it is Psalm 137.
It reminds me of another sad situation. By the rivers of Babylon (by the Potomac River,) there we sat weeping (we cried, we give up!) when we remembered Zion (when we remembered Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) we hung up our harps (we threw out our Bill of Rights because they had become irrelevant, and Emma Lazarus’ famous lines on the Statue of Liberty, which captured the nation’s imagination, no longer shape the way we think about immigration and freedom today).
For there our captors asked us for the words of a song; our tormentors, for joy: “Sing for us a song of Zion!” (for there the terrorists reached for swords to behead Christians, confident that their supreme power would support them). But how could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget. May my tongue stick to my palate if I do not remember you.
We gazed over and up to see our silent harps still hanging upon the willow trees and the soothing voice of our God, telling us to weep and mourn, which we did. For those in exile only lament and their cries and screams lose voice, for one can mourn impossibly long (we have no values and laws, religion has become irrelevant, sports has become ever more violent and blood-thirsty and our nation has spent sextillion amounts of money it didn’t have).
Then Providence piped to us and told us to dance because our exile is over. Our elder sage read Psalm 126 and said we should re-discover God, Christianity, morality, our nation’s Constitution, the Bill of Rights and our history books. When the Lord restored the captives of Zion (when we rediscover our values as both a people and a nation), we thought we were dreaming. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues sang for joy. Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy (we had a huge 4th of July marching band with mile-long parades).
Lord, we pray we are no longer a divided nation; yet, if a number straggle, let them don a blindfold, holding the gluey hand of a person who has a suspiciously foreign accent, and Emma will once again read her star-spangled verse: 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.
Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.