The 10th anniversary of 9/11 has just passed. It’s one of those days in history when people can recall what they were doing. I certainly can. It was a beautiful early autumn day. I spent the morning carrying out my Councillor duties in Stafford and then working for a conflict resolution organisation at Longton High School. The news, which I listened to on the way back to Leek, was unbelievable. I initially thought it was a radio play, but the voices of the presenters and the terrible events they were describing were proof. I later spoke to a friend with whom I had visited New York in 1999. New York, it goes without saying, is a great place. I loved Central Park, the museums, China Town and Greenwich Village. It is a place of charm, vitality and diversity. It was as much these characteristic of the place that was brutally attacked a decade ago.
You may ask what is this to do with Leek? I would answer everything because we have all been changed by 9/11. Locals who have fought in the subsequent wars. I was recently talking to a mother who son was badly injured in a mine explosion in Helmand province. There were the polarising debates over Iraq in 2003. Many people, myself included, went to the largest rally in London that February. Other consequences have been an increase in distrust of Muslims. Stoke has seen an arson attack on a mosque and a general feeling of uncertainty has increased.
What is to be done? At the time I recalled a quote from the American monk Thomas Merton. Ten years after it serves as the only response to fanaticism.
"The desire to kill is like the desire to attack another with a red hot iron. I have to pick up the incandescent metal and burn my own hand while burning the other person. Hate itself is the seed of death in my own heart while it seeks death of another. Love is the seed of life in my own heart while it seeks the good of another.".