“Hatred can be overcome only by love.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

September 11, 2001 was a day that forever changed the lives of millions, including me.

On that bright, blue-skied Tuesday morning, the heart of human civilization was shaken by acts of remarkable hatred, death and destruction.

And though wars ensued to expunge hostile dictators and eradicate hate-filled murderers in foreign lands, one thing remains clear: while hatred can and ought to be combated, pummeled back and faced down with the force of a hammer; in the end, hatred cannot be overcome by force alone.

To some degree, the hatred will persist. To some degree, the hatred is even further perpetuated.

A hammer — the use of force, whether legitimate or rooted in hate — can only be effective when wielded. To combat hatred, an embodiment of love must be placed in the hammer’s wake — a quiet candle — that can last and sustain itself long after the hammer has been swung.

A Hammer and a Candle

To stand and fight in defense of human liberty is an important cause. The fight is to ensure members of the human species the political guarantee to live the best lives that they choose to live. The fight is a weary and horrible one. Preserving freedom is an arduous task, and its cost is paid in ten million tears.

Nevertheless, those who would impress upon the world an evil wickedness and wreak oppression and murder must be faced down and kept in check. The fight often feels like a never-ending one, just as clipping one’s finger- and toenails.

And yet, as the ninth anniversary of 9/11 draws near, we must recognize that sheer force alone — whether originating from democracy, fundamentalism, communism, or any other political theory — cannot be forever sustained. Force is but a tool.

A hammer does not alone propel a nail; it must be wielded and made to strike it.

For we freedom-loving people as we reflect upon September 11th and the years following, we should recognize there must be something more than force that can compel (or at the very least, marginalize) those filled with hatred.

That “something” is the embodiment of love — love, trust, and self-determination manifested in equal sociopolitical freedoms, which in turn allows for the greatest perpetuation of human goodness.

To Combat Hatred with Love

To combat hatred with love is perhaps the noblest of causes; the highest of ideals; the pinnacle of earthly dedication to goodness and to freedom. This mantle is neither one of indifference nor surrender, but rather the greatest strength that humanity can summon… the most remarkable fight of fights that our species can muster.

Any can conquer with hatred. Few can conquer with love.

Nine years ago, darkness and death engulfed the heart of human freedom. Lady Liberty could only stand idly by, ever tall, amid the ash and tears and ruin. But she stood nevertheless, and stands still to this day. A hammer of hate struck the bosom of our land and all freedom-loving people on 9/11.

Our nation struck back with hammers of greater size and force. I believe that the merit or legitimacy of any conflict or political movement is measured by way of its dedication to (and ultimate success in) establishing lasting institutions that grant and ensure equal rights and freedoms to its people.

A hammer alone can only bring destruction, because a hammer itself cannot maintain the peace is seeks to enforce. In the wake of the hammer, any noble and just cause shall place a candle.

Like the flame held high by Lady Liberty, matched only in intensity by the towering tribute of light where towers once stood, the candle shall persist to burn its flame and cast light, and goodness, and freedom, and love, in places that were once consumed by darkness.

A hammer must be wielded to strike; a candle, once lit, shall sustain its own light.