Our time in Trinidad this past weekend raised just such questions in my own mind. And like a student taking a final exam in a social studies course, I was confronted with the question, "Compare and contrast Trinidad and the United States of America."
Of course, I recognize that I am not an expert on Trinidadian life and culture! A few days doesn't turn one into an expert! And I also recognize that America is a vast and varied nation--so I speak here in generalities.
First, diversity. Trinidad seems to have found a way to truly appreciate religious, cultural and racial differences. Hindus, Christians, Muslims. Vegans and meat-eaters. Folks of Indian descent, folks of African descent, folks of European descent, all seemed to live and work together. Granted there were pockets of folks here and there grouped by race or ethnic background--but by and large, I found Trinidad a much for integrated society than our own. Even socio-economically--large homes of the well-to-do often stood side-by-side with run down bungalows.
That said, here in the United States we often have a more considered approach to planning and zoning. While it often seems like a burden to Americans, it also leads, at its best, to a community that it more logical in design.
Trinidad is also marked by an approach to education that seems to be more equitable than our own often is. There is an emphasis on technical education that is largely missing from our own school systems. And post-secondary education is provided for all who academically qualify at no cost.
Health care, too, seems to be more readily available for one and all due to a single payer system. Granted, health care quality is probably greater here in the United States, indeed it is not uncommon for the worst cases in Trinidad to be flown out to places like Miami. Still access for all is the governing principle. How, one wonders, can we move to a place where there is both open access and high quality care?
As always, on these foreign junkets, I come home grateful to be an American. Yet I am also reminded that as a nation we have much to learn from other nations. And we are wise to do just that--for we are increasingly a global society!
One of my favorite hymns, "This Is My Song," was written by Lloyd Stone, and is usually sung to the tune FINLANDIA. It's first stanza sums up well my thoughts and prayers as I reflect on the trip:
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts, in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
God bless Trinidad and Tobago. God bless the United States of America. God bless our world!