Love Let Loose
By Alexandra Olson
Washington , DC
As a child, I created a seemingly abstract idea about love. I thought that the color of my heart leaked out of my body, as if the love I held within me was being exposed on the outside. I believed that to love is such a powerful component to life that it was impossible to stay confined in one singular heart. Every night as I was being tucked in, I said to my parents: I love you with all my heart, and even past that.
On Saturday, September 11th, I was shocked to hear Ambassador Akbar Ahmed announcing to an audience of devout listeners that “we need to love outside of our hearts”. I couldn’t help making the connection between my young abstractness to a newly founded idea: love outside of the heart is not an abstract idea. It is necessary to finding peace.
On Saturday, Ambassador Ahmed, along with Daniel Tutt, Patrick McDermott, and Alex Kronemer, contributed to a “Hope Not Hate” presentation at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center. The program was hosted by Keynote 20,000 Dialogues and Americans for Informed Democracy, both organizations that cultivate dialogue, civic engagement, and peaceful idealization for a sustainable world. It was a gift to each member of the audience to attend such an event.
The date was tremendously appropriate. It is peculiar that those of us who remember the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, all seem to describe the day in the same manner. Clear skies, bright, blue, and beautiful. Most individuals state that they remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt on that day. It is haunting. In my opinion, there was no better way to commemorate and reflect on our similar emotions regarding the attacks than to participate in an interfaith dialogue.
Dr. Ahmed gave a lecture that tested the audience. He provided a list of quotes, asking the public to guess who the author was. He gave quotes of St. Francis, Benjamin Franklin, and the legendary Persian poet, Hafiz. It was amusing to listen to the gasps of surprise and interest when Dr. Ahmed gave the correct answers to his trivia. Clearly, we have a long way in understanding how similar we are from one another.
Followed by Dr. Ahmed’s presentation, we were treated to a screening of a film titled On a Wing and Prayer. The documentary revolves around Monem Salam, a Muslim-American who had dreamt of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately for Salam, pilot licensure in a post-September 11th America proved to be very challenging. The beautiful story unfolds in a very sarcastic, humorous fashion. However, it never loses its seriousness and it subtly addresses the completed dream that a Muslim-American produced. It is tremendously rewarding, and highly influential. Through laughter and tears, I profoundly believe that this film will give a better understanding of what it is like to be a Muslim in American today.
The closing hour of the program featured a panel discussion between the star of the film, Monem Salam, and Ambassador Ahmed. The men discussed the need to find the capacity to be compassionate, as well as the importance to spread the knowledge of peaceful dialogue.
An aurora of peace left the auditorium with me, and I wish to leave you with the same sense of closure. The individual presentations, film screening, and panel discussion reiterated the idea to let your love expand beyond your heart. Finally, we mustn’t forget “what begins in anger ends in shame”.