Oct. 7, 2011: What peace means for a generation growing up in a post-9/11 world, by Sirir McGuire
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was 6 years old. I was too young to understand the magnitude of that day, but old enough to realize that something drastic had happened. I don’t remember what the world was like before 9/11, and neither can many of my classmates. I am part of a generation of Americans that know nothing but a post-9/11 world.
I’ve grown up with many in our society blaming the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on the Muslim community as a whole, without them taking the time to fully understand their beliefs and values. Those who accepted this explanation without question didn’t pause to consider the prejudice in such declaration.
But children look to leaders and adults in society to teach them about the world and how to treat other people, especially those of different beliefs. So it is vital for adults to stop and consider what effect such intolerance may have had on the younger generation.
When the country demonizes an entire community because the acts of a few, many innocent people are harmed. If a child is taught and grows up believing that all Muslims are terrorists, what contribution does that make to creating a sustainable peace in our world?
So what is peace to a person who has never lived in a country that is not at war?
Growing up in the post-9/11 world has taught me that peace is not merely a lack of violence; rather, it is an active effort to learn from the past and to prevent violence in the future.
But how can peace be attained when all we understand is prejudice and misinformation? Peace in this world means gaining understanding of differing viewpoints; with understanding comes acceptance.
We must remember that acceptance of another does not mean we have to believe in the same god, agree with the same politician or speak the same language. It means recognizing and attempting to understand another viewpoint, and giving that person the respect and dignity he or she deserves despite differences.
My generation has the challenge of wiping away the misconceptions about the Middle East and Islam by educating ourselves and forming our own opinions about the matter. Peace can be attained in a post-9/11 world only when we take an active role by educating ourselves and taking responsibility for the things we say and for the lessons we teach others.
— Siri McGuire is the daughter of Bill and Anne McGuire. She is a junior at Concordia High School and the president of the school’s chapter of Friends of Rachel.