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Learning to understand and love after 9/11

By Kurt Manwaring

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Sept. 8 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Editor's note: Mormon Times asked readers how the events of 9/11 had a spiritual impact on their lives. Second in a series.

I’ll never forget the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. My roommate woke up and told me that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. I saw the wreckage on television and naively wondered how a commercial jet could so dramatically veer off course. Then I watched in almost hypnotic terror as a second plane crashed and I realized that something was very wrong.

The world was changed forever on that day. And so was I.

I was born in the 1980s and never had any comprehension of a true national enemy. The 9/11 attacks were my first legitimate exposure to the horrors of anti-American sentiment. I began to ponder what was happening and why.

I remember vividly how the country banded together in the days and weeks following the attacks. Flags flew on virtually every street, and there no longer seemed to be Republicans or Democrats — only Americans.

Over time, that euphoric unity faded away and political lines were redrawn. A lot of negative rhetoric also began to be focused on Muslims.

I didn’t understand all that was happening, but I knew I felt uncomfortable with much of what I heard.

I began to think. Islam is a peaceful religion. The terrorists didn’t act on behalf of Islam but rather an extreme sect of the religion. So why was there so much suspicion, distrust and even hatred?

The conclusion I came to was that in times of war, it is easy to both generalize and hate. Sweeping generalizations make it easier to focus our feelings of hurt. But how many soldiers — even in America — fight with the full knowledge and intent of their political leaders? Very few. Yet how often do we place the guilt or responsiblity of those leaders on the heads of all soldiers, citizens or congregations?

And while it is so easy — and understandable — to lean toward hatred of those who hurt us, how can those feelings ultimately be compatible with the Savior’s admittedly difficult counsel to love our enemies?

As a result of 9/11, I have gained a greater understanding that we are all children of God — even, and perhaps especially, in times of war. I no longer pray just for American soldiers — including those in my own family — but for all soldiers, for love in lieu of hatred, for peace instead of war.

Kurt Manwaring is pursuing a graduate degree in public administration at the University of Utah. He is the owner of Manwaring Research & Consulting and maintains a personal blog at www.kurtsperspective.blogspot.com.

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