Mother and Child and War

What can you tell your kids? Anything but the truth.

Let's just breeze right by the cognitive dissonance that allows the major media to declare its concern for my children while marching in lockstep with the White House. Let's go straight to the impossibility of heeding that advice. What can I possibly say about this war that is both honest and cautious? Nothing--that's what. Everything I might tell him is profane, bitter, ugly. Honesty will bare the places where I'm completely unable to reassure myself, let alone a child whose sense of well-being is more vital than my own breath.

As far as reassurance is concerned, I think that the best I can do is tell my boy that I don't want him to worry about it, that it's my job to make sure no one hurts him. I'm going to have to leave out the part about being unable to make it so.

Here's another problem: He's going to ask why this war is happening--and as befits a kid his age, he's going to keep asking until everyone within earshot is numb. What shall I say? We're mad at someone else who lives half a world away? The president's father didn't beat Saddam Hussein all the way up? Bush doesn't want anyone looking too closely at what his friends in corporate America are up to, and this is a fail-safe distraction? There's a whole lot of oil under Hussein's sandbox?

Daniel Corrigan

I'll bet the parents of that Salvadoran teen never had the luxury of teaching him to ask questions and to think things out for himself. Like parents in most of the world, their priority doubtless was teaching their kids to survive. And small wonder: The cease-fire negotiations I attended in 1984 were a failure. Officially, the war went on for another four years, and although it's over now, pretty much nothing has been done to address the injustices that sparked it.

I worry that my kids are going to grow up with the same programming as that teenager. When I decided to have children, I didn't imagine any of this. I knew Rob and Laura Petrie had always been a lie and that little kids don't walk to school alone anymore, but terrorism was a horror visited on people in El Salvador and other faraway places. I didn't think about soft targets or pray that no one would ever figure out that a slow, steady campaign of blowing up school buses and Dairy Queens would cripple Americans far more effectively than that Irwin Allen-style assault on the Twin Towers.

And that's the nasty, dark core of my fears. That the world has just changed dramatically enough that I won't be able to equip my kids to live in it. And when I think that they can grow up to be curious and self-reliant and to trust themselves, and it still might not be enough, well, then it's my heart that's going to break.

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