Dear Fatima Khurshid
I am an American citizen, but first and foremost I am a human being, a friend, a wife, and a mother.
As a mother of a son who will soon turn 18, I say to other mothers, and to fathers, all around the world: “My son is not destined to kill your sons.”
In fact, my son wants to be a pediatrician, a doctor who helps children. My daughter hopes to be a scientist, studying bats—yes, bats—can you believe it? What do your children want to do when they grow up?
I believe in a world where all our children are free to pursue their dreams. In such a world, conflicts are resolved through communication, through talking until we understand one another’s humanity and can work together to find solutions that work for us all. Conflicts are never resolved through fighting, because war escalates conflict. Killing one another doesn’t fix anything; it just makes more angry, grieving mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and daughters and loved ones who have lost those important to them.
To achieve this world, we must heal the terrible wounds that have led genuinely hurt people to believe that violence will somehow right the wrongs they have experienced. We must, therefore, ensure that every person has clean water to drink, has enough good food to eat, has access to a quality education, has access to health care, has a support system of friends and family who can laugh together in prevention of loneliness and cry together to heal when natural losses occur. In such a world, terrorism cannot exist. We can starve terrorism with compassion.
When people lack these basic necessities, they become desperate. When a madman with a gun yells, “Follow me!” some of the desperate will follow. But, when people have the basic necessities of life, and a madman with a gun yells, “Follow me!” they will shake their heads and refuse.
Those who support warfare sometimes ask me, “What would you have done about Hitler, if you’re a pacifist?” I explain that in a world where Hitler’s countrymen were not starving through a terrible depression, where these basic necessities of life were certain, someone like Hitler might still have begun spouting crazy, violent ideas. But instead of joining him, those around him would have responded compassionately, “Oh, poor Adolf! What frightening ideas you have! Let’s get you some help!” And there would be real mental health care readily available. The same is true in any time and place, anywhere in the world. Terrorism arises when and where people are desperate, not when and where they are healthy, well-fed, and educated, not where they sleep safely at night and dream of bright futures.
So, this is my vision for your children and for mine: that they have clean water to drink, safe nutritious food to eat, safe places to play and later to work, safe beds in which to sleep at night with loving families nearby, good educations to spark and nurture their confident dreams of adulthood, and medical care to help them when they are sick. I want my country’s children to stop shooting your country’s children, and I want all the others in the world to stop shooting, too. I want us to talk, to get to know one another, to share a cup of tea while we ask open questions and come to understand one another as real human beings.
I want to reach my hand across the ocean gently to all the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers in the world, and make friends. When we talk, when we laugh and cry together, when we share a cup of tea and really listen to one another’s stories, we can bring about the kind of world we both want for our children, and for our children’s children.
A mother of United States