By Jonathan Moremi
When I saw the second plane fly into the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 – there was shock on my face and horror. Not, because this happened to the US, but because I knew that this happened to humans. The single mother battling hard with her two children after her husband had left her, the young man aspiring to become a scientist finding a cure to diseases, the old woman who had lost her husband and son in a car accident early and been alone and brave for 30 years, the businessman from abroad on a strenuous conference trip, working hard to ensure a living for his family and education for his daughter and son, the over 600 Muslims working in companies in the towers, being unaware of getting killed this very minute by so called ‘Muslim’ brothers – who were in fact no brothers nor Muslims but cold, pathetic terrorists and murderers.
These were the pictures that flashed through my head in a fraction of a second as I watched the plane plunge into the tower and explode in a fire ball. How could I have smiled, knowing that humans, real living human individuals were pulverised to nothing in this very moment? It wasn’t the US that was getting attacked in that very minute, it were humans, humans of flesh and blood, all the humans I had in my mind. And it was visible if the vision was not, for whatever reason, blurred.
I have had more than my fair share of anger over the US (and that is putting it very euphemistically). But when the bombs now exploded in Boston, I only saw the people, the humans torn to pieces and killed. The 8 year old boy, who was so proud that his father had run the marathon and reached the finish line, or the woman who had perhaps managed to fight a terminal illness and was just getting back on her feet, the young man, who had successfully made it through high school and thought his whole life lay before him – how could I see them other than ‘humans’, how would any other ‘label’ fit but ‘humans’?
Some say: The US was attacked. And to them that is the truth. That was the plan of those who planted those bombs. They wanted to ‘attack the US’, and sometimes this gives a feeling of satisfaction to people, who do not realise that they are falling for the trap laid out for them by the bomb planters.
No, whatever they tell us or want us to say, it wasn’t the US attacked in Boston but innocent human beings: boys, girls, women and men – humans like you and me. And vice versa it also wasn’t ‘an Arab’ or ‘a Muslim’ or whoever who planted those horrific bombs, but a cold-hearted, pathetic murderer, like you sadly find them in any society around the world. There are murders happening in the Western world by Westerners that, regarding brutality, easily match this bomb attack. Not in numbers perhaps but in ruthlessness. So how can a label of nationality or religion explain anything where inhumane horror is concerned, where we are talking of tearing young children’s bodies apart for the sake of power and greed?
We must learn to do away with these labels that never tell us any truths but only help to manifest what the murderers want: That as a human community we fall apart, that our compassion for our fellow humans is halted, that we become divided into labels and camps of ‘US’ and ‘Arabs’ and ‘Muslims’ and ‘Christians’, of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – into labels of ‘them’ and ‘us’ – of ‘they’ and ‘we’ – into never making it together.
A mother crying over her bomb-torn boy cries the same, whether in Baghdad or Boston. The pain is no different. Why then should we allow the killers, who inflict these pains, to divide us into groups where the same very horrific pain over a dead child becomes a ‘their pain’ over an ‘our pain’? Why play into the hands of those who kill and triumph if we fall for the categories they have decided for a distorted world of hate and power?
It is the categories in our heads that tear us apart. The bombs come later. If we would understand this, there would be no room for smiles, nor now for the fear to learn of the nationality of a bomb planter, of hearing he might be “one of us”. Because, no matter what he says and perhaps even believes, he did not plant that bomb as an Arab, or a Muslim, or a Christian, or an American. He planted these bombs as a pathetic, mentally disturbed, sick person full of hatred for himself and others. And he wants us to join him in his madness of thinking so he can feel that he’s not alone with his disease.
I won’t go along. People are never ‘Arabs’ to me or ‘Muslims’, not ‘Westerners’ or ‘Christians’. They are human beings. The rest is a colourful and wonderful add-on that helps shape their personality. Nothing more, but nothing less. Like my add-ons that others like or dislike. Some we share, some we don’t. But their tears are like mine, their smile is too, they are humans, and so am I.
Let us embrace our heritage, our cultures, our beliefs, our nationalities, as a unique personal gain and a richness of our diverse world. Let us respect and treasure it. But in the end – if we don’t remove the labels of otherness from our heads in life and in death we play into the hands of those who plant bombs and horror. And with that we will never be able to stop the terrorists from doing their horrific deeds. Not on the ground. And, much more dangerous, not in our heads.
It is there after all, were the bombs begin.
Article was first published on www.jonamorem.blogspot.com
Jonathan Moremi is an award-winning writer, journalist and blogger, concentrating mainly on Egypt and the Middle East in his reporting since the outbreak of the Arab revolutions. You can follow him on twitter at @jonamorem