There are few photographs that have commanded my full attention. Among them are those that recall some of our nation's most trying moments, while others recount some of the international community's most atrocious crimes. Among all of them, there is a pervasive force that constitutes a desire to examine the past by the means of a compelling story.
It was for this reason that I was surprised by a photograph that was implicitly foretelling the future.
I had found it while scouring the latest edition of my favorite magazine, Newsweek (not often a popular choice of literature amongst my peers, I might add).
It flashed before me. I saw the distorted features of blind, unadulterated hatred.
The page in front of me showed the faces of children whose environment had inculcated them with an anger so strong that I felt obliged to fear for their future. Photographer Omar Sobhani had arrested my senses with the depiction of young boys and men rioting in Afghanistan in the wake of the Middle East's latest wave of violence ostensibly linked to "The Innocence of Muslims," a video negatively depicting the prophet Muhammad.
It was too late, I thought to myself. In a world in which the only guarantee to our continuity comes from an open mind, I saw the five-year-olds in the photo clutching rocks in their hands as testaments to the close-mindedness with which my generation had already been infected.
Children have already learned to hate, once again. Moreover, the theme of this photograph is not unique to any single region of the world. From the West Bank to Afghanistan to Topeka, our world has placed within us that agent for divisiveness that has catalyzed terrorist attacks and hate crimes alike.
We are taught that it is a word whose employment is only warranted in cases of extreme disdain, yet we witness the example of politicians and persons of cultural importance who spew it for gain quite readily.
How can we possibly look towards peace if we have yet to look at our own dispositions?
As evidenced by programs all across the globe, I am not the only person posing such a question. Slowly, there are things that are beginning to change.
For instance, in the Negev Desert of Israel, there is a wonderful program called the Hagar School. Beginning in kindergarten, Hagar places Arabic-speaking children, many of whom possess relatives in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, alongside Hebrew-speaking Israelis to learn. What is more endearing is that this new program has already seen success, building bridges between these two disparate and adverse worlds which reside in the hearts of the students and parents at the Hagar School.
We need more programs like the Hagar School. Otherwise, whether in the Middle East or the United States, the sentiments inherent in this photograph will continue to undermine the efforts of those people who have worked hard to upset this paradigm that perpetuates suspicion and misunderstanding.
Let us begin to throw those rocks away. Otherwise, we will never better ourselves, or each other.