“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today was the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. I spent most of the day away from social media but the few times I did check in, I saw memoriam posts ranging from urging others to cherish their loved ones and time with them to anger and hatred.

I shared my own personal account of what had happened that day. What I remembered, how I spent the day, because everyone’s memories are different and even though we say #neverforget, I’m not sure we really do that. I am not sure that we remember – when it is not an anniversary of a tragedy – to appreciate what we have in our lives. To be loving and compassionate every day, to tell people what they mean to us, every day, not just on days like today. Because while the world became a whole lot smaller on September 11, 2001, and the people who were alive when it happened swear they’ll never forget, there will be a year when September 11, 2001, joins December 7, 1941, as just another day in our nation’s history books when another country attacked us out of hatred for our way of life. There will be a year when this day will not elicit emotional memorial tributes and recounts of where people were and what they were doing when it happened.

I shared my personal account of where I was when I found out what happened and the only verbal response to my words was a call for hatred. When I responded that hate, in any form, is not the answer, I was challenged and brow-beaten with a paragraph about “what if it had been your family? How can you love something so unworthy of love?”

The idea behind Dr. King’s words is not to love the thing that hurts you. It is to not stop loving because you have been hurt. And to not waste your heart on hate. Don’t hate the thing that hurt you, love the thing it hates. Love in spite of that thing’s hate.

In general, this means be kind to other people, be supportive of other people. Don’t just TALK about being a “good person,” BE a good person. More relevant to what started all of this, invite your Middle Eastern neighbors into your home for dinner and ask them to bring a favorite dish when they come, so that you can learn about them (and have a hearty laugh when they show up carrying tacos). Support Syrian refugees. Tell your Congress(wo)man that you support allowing refugees into the U.S. Because love is welcoming thousands of sick, hungry, injured homeless refugees in spite of the fear that one of them might be a terrorist.

Don’t blame an entire population of people for the radical actions of a small handful.

In the days following September 11, 2001, bombs were dropped on Middle Eastern cities in retaliation for what had been done. When it happened, I thought that is how you fight back. Don’t kowtow to the bully.

I changed my mind shortly after.

When I realized that those bombs in those cities potentially killed more innocent people than all of the active members of Al Qaeda combined. When I realized that potentially more innocent people died in Hiroshima than could have ever inhabited a military base the size of Pearl Harbor. When I realized that the United States had chosen to battle hatred with more hatred. I no longer believed that bombing cities was a brave act of retaliation.

There are things about being an American that I cherish. I am free to share these words without the fear of persecution. I am free to speak to plants and the moon and call it a religion without being tried for heresy. I am free to speak out against my government when I feel as if it is not serving its people properly. I am free to sit or kneel during our national anthem if that is what I feel is right.

But there are also many things about being an American that embarrass me. I am embarrassed at the way our elected officials disrespect the people who gave them their jobs – from the constituents right up to the President. I am embarrassed that people in positions of power encourage those below them to hate without regard. Hate immigrants, hate Muslims, hate gays, hate women. It’s all there, if you listen. The hatred in our nation doesn’t start at the bottom. It doesn’t start with racist redneck hillbillies in the deepest reaches of the Ozarks. It trickles down from the top. It trickles down from voter suppression laws. It trickles down from statistically harsher punishment for people of color than for whites for the same crime. It trickles down from persistent attempts to remove basic civil rights from women and from minority groups. It trickles down from a pipeline that has the potential to poison hundreds of thousands of people and the media silence surrounding the cries of those people. And, unfortunately, it also trickles down from parent to child, a child who is born only understanding love and must be taught hate.

As September 12, 2016, winds to a close and another anniversary has passed, I implore my fellow citizens of Earth to love one another. Battle against those who harbor hatred for western cultures by loving. I am not telling you to love ISIS (don’t hate ISIS either; hate is what they want, hate justifies their beliefs, hate justifies their actions). I am not telling you we should implement hug a terrorist day. I am saying they hate us because we are greedy and immoral, selfish and arrogant. Love one another and show them that we are not all greedy and immoral, selfish and arrogant. Even when they are not watching, even when they are not listening, show them good people.

Love those around you with everything you have. Donate goods and money and time to charities. Do good things because they are good, not because of what you might get in return. Be kind. Be generous.


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



One thought on “Reflecting

  1. Pingback: Where were you when the world stopped turning? | From guestwriters

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