When 9/11 happened, I was in the fifth grade. I was ten. I didn't understand the weight of it. I only knew it was horrible.
For the next 13 years of my life, I would watch the aftermath and try to understand what happened. Throughout my teens, I would cringe at the report of any other threat, and as a Muslim-American say to myself, "Please, don't let it be a Muslim. Please, not again. Please, not in the name of my religion."
Later, as a young adult, while my head focused on reciting the names of all the innocent lives lost in the 9/11 attacks for a memorial ceremony, it also ached for the lives of other innocent people who were killed in our counterterrorism efforts, whose names I would never know and whose names may never be recorded.
I sometimes would think that those whose lives were horrendously cut short on 9/11 would say of the killing of innocents in our following wars, "Please, don't let it be a civilian like me. Please, not again. Please, not in the name of my death."
I'm beginning to understand that the Disease of Hatred that hit our towers that day found a way to infect people who never had that kind of hatred before. I felt that blood-hungry hatred swim around the world, poignantly charging words and aiming guns.
My generation has endured a cycle of violence. We have seen religion blamed, cultures blamed, and on all sides bloody fingers. We have felt the loss of innocent lives, near and distant. Every generation has seen their own share of violence, but there is something so tangible about the way we have access to and can impact information now. There is something about our lived experience that has the potential to overcome boundaries like never before.
Our generation is a global generation. We are clicks away from one another at all times. With this era of communication comes great privileges and greater challenges. Today, I think one of our most significant challenges is to prevent the ongoing cycles of injustice, in particular those stemming from cross-cultural violence.
To think critically about what is going on in the world and the issues that are affecting people's everyday lives, even when those people do not live beside you: this is the obligation of my generation. And there is perhaps nothing longer-standing and more relevant in this moment than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As the loss of innocent lives is in the hundreds and ongoing, it is the obligation of our generation to examine the sides we take and the information we choose to take into account. A recent report (July 20) by the UN announced that 375 Palestinians have been killed, including 36 women and 83 children. Over 3,000 Palestinians have been injured, and more than 100,000 Palestinians are now displaced. More than one million have limited or no access to water or sanitation services.
The other night, I heard the announcement of the death of the first Israeli soldier as ground invasions began (the Israeli death toll recently reached 20, two civilians and the rest military). The CNN reporter ended the piece by stating that there were 60,000 Palestinian children in need of psychosocial support.
My mother's words haunt me as we watched the same newscast. "You and your brother are upset by the news, but it is not news to us," she said. "This has been going on for not only all of your lives, but all of ours, too."
I do not want to say that to my children.
I do not want to continue to watch the news, and as deaths of Palestinians are announced in this crushing offensive by Israel say, "Please, not another innocent child. Please, not again. Please, make it stop."
In this moment, the death tolls will inevitably grow if Israel's Operation Protective Edge continues. It is up to us to decide what the death tolls will mean to us, and the numbers should demonstrate what they truly are: a grave injustice to humanity.
For those who have been so shamefully silenced by this violence, we can create cycles of peace. There is a generation that has our voices not only at our mouths, but also at our fingertips. Our generation has the ability to be louder than anyone has ever been before by creating a chorus of, "Please, never again."
"Please, no more."