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Love and Hatred
By Andrea L. Gerig September 14, 2001

What I am about to write may make me unpopular in my own country. I don't want America to go to war. In fact, I believe that I understand what happened Tuesday, September 11, more clearly than President Bush or the bold terrorists themselves. There are many people hurting in this world, and it's not just us.

The acts themselves were terrible. As with all my countrymen, I am still reeling from the shock and grief and, indeed, terror that the mass killings produced. Those strikes hit the heart of America, hurting us not because the symbols of our power were damaged, but because our strength is in our people. Thousands of them are now dead just because someone wanted to send a strong message.

Because of the violence and ambiguity of that message, Americans did not understand. Nor will they, I fear, until many lifetimes of history have passed. These are the acts that breed war, and war does not lend itself to clear thinking. Or to sympathy with its perpetrators.

Yet these acts are also ones of a desperate cry for love. Our dear terrorists have long felt themselves to be unheard, uncared for. Americans have pretended to listen to the plight of the Palestinians, but have done little to truly understand it. Instead, they insisted that the other brother Israel was always right. And the Palestinians despaired, for Israel has always been the favored younger child.

If the United States sees itself as the superpower, the Big Brother of the world, then it has taken for itself an awesome responsibility. One must be very careful when assuming that mantle, judging fairly between the nations one fosters and not showing favoritism. For unjust favoritism breeds hatred between brothers, and that hatred leads to the destruction of all.

The Palestinians are not our enemies. They are an oppressed people, fighting for a freedom that increasingly diminishes. First their land was taken to create a country for a long-dispossessed people. Then, the upstart nation denied them the dignity of protesting their hurt. Instead of caring about them, the United States, Israel, and the other nations spurned their grievances, labeling them as an unstable, violent people. By diminishing their pain, the other nations showed great disrespect.

With little political recourse, the Palestinians (and their supporters) acted out in ways that became more and more violent. Instead of getting the attention they desired, the bloodshed only served to justify the positions of those who opposed them. Violence is unacceptable as a means of communication, because it is only effective as a way to hurt others. Thus, a vicious cycle of murder and pain escalated toward terrorism and full-blown war.

To America's enemies, the terrorist act was cause to celebrate, because finally they have made themselves heard. Unfortunately, the response will not be the one they desired. The United States has no choice but to perceive the attack as a declaration of war. And so any progress that might have been made toward mutual understanding has been destroyed.

At this point, it may be too late to pull back, refresh our perspectives, and start anew to solve this conflict. Those who destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon have shown that the only language they understand is the language of pain. It was a cruel act, born of desperation and mistrust. It also demonstrated a lack of creativity - surely adult human beings can think of better ways to express themselves than by childishly blowing things up. By declaring war against the terrorists, America is using the only communication option that has been left to them.

I grieve for the atrocities that will be committed by my country, its allies, and those of the countries they oppose. Already, too much killing has been exchanged. Much too much. So many people have been hurt that they desire to strike back with violence. This will not end until the world is overwhelmed by the losses of millions of its beautiful sons and daughters.

Unless. Are you willing to step into the shoes of your enemy? Can you feel what he feels, grieve when he grieves? And from that perspective, can you find one scrap of common ground? Think to yourselves - do you love your children? Your families? Do you believe in your religion or your freedom so deeply that you would die for it? Would you kill to defend your country or your way of life? Anyone willing to go to war must admit that he or she would both kill and die for something. And there you have common ground with those who so audaciously struck at America.

Remember our own history - the guerilla warfare of the American Revolution, the rejoicing when nuclear bombs destroyed the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Are we indeed so different from those we would revile? Violence and murder lurk in the hearts of all men. Sometimes, one fights for a higher cause. Yet the results of war are always the same - destruction of land, people, and relationships.

I do not know what to ask for. I must support my own country in whatever course of action it chooses to take, just as the Palestinians or other peoples must support their leaders. I cannot beg for anyone to put aside their feelings of hatred for the good of mankind, for I have experienced those feelings too.

All I can hope for is that someday, when the killing has gone on long enough, there will be people willing to repair the relationships that have been lost.


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