Tuesday, May 10, 2011

what they talked about the morning after

I wrote, not long ago, about how crazy-in-love I am with my husband because he talks with the kids when important things happen. He does this because he understands its value, even if they don't seem to fully appreciate it at the time. Often they do. Other times they're like Doug in "Up", seemingly interested then... "Squirrel!"

So the Monday morning following the President's announcement of Bin Laden's death, he talked with them, and one friend asked if I didn't mind sharing what he'd said. I wasn't ready to talk in detail about it at the time because there was so much knee-jerking swirling around. Some joyfully thankful for closure. Others sharing jokes about what Bin Laden found when he reached the afterlife. Others arguing over whether our current President or former President should get credit (sorry... can't help it... you've been warned, here it comes: seriously??) Others sharing scripture verses to support a wide range of emotional reactions and to criticize the reactions of others. Still others already forming conspiracy theories. People shared things I wanted to "like", others shared things that made me want to stand up and shake my fist. But I resisted. I didn't trust myself to enter the fray. So I kept quiet.

Little over a week later, Bin Laden's demise is still the talk of the day, despite life threatening flood waters and ships sinking off of Libya and plenty other current news stories. But the reactions have waned enough, and I feel centered enough, to comment further.

With all that build up you'd think I have something hugely profound to say. But I really don't. The conversation was very simple. It started years ago when we made it a practice to talk with the kids about what goes on in the world. About where our soldiers are fighting and why and what they think about that. During the 2008 presidential election we had them listen to some of the better speeches by both candidates and we talked about issues, on a level that they could understand. So even though none of them are old enough to remember 9/11, they are aware of it and frankly have lived their entire lives in its aftermath.

Yet even with all that, they said something amazing over breakfast that Monday morning. When asked if they remembered what we'd talked about regarding 9/11, they said, "Yeah, some people accidentally flew planes into buildings and killed a lot of people". Wow. Accidentally. How beautifully innocent. And how dangerously false. As much as we'd love to raise these children to think this world is a utopia, we cannot. We dare not. That paves the way for history to repeat itself. (keep in mind this came from a fifth grader, not a five year old)

Eric calmly laid out how 9/11 was no accident, that it was planned and executed because of people's fear and hate. That one man in particular had plotted many ways to kill Americans, and that 9/11 was only one of those. Their faces looked as if they would cry. They don't want to believe that kind of evil really exists in the world.

I recall them talking about hate and about how fierce it is. Not to be coy, but Yoda really did put it best didn't he? "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." I hope that by talking with them this way about how evil hate really is - not with graphic images and overly emotional commentary that will frighten them, but with frank honesty they can understand - I hope this kind of talk sets a warning in their hearts.

Then he explained that since 9/11 we've been at war, and that one of the goals of that war was to capture or kill this one person. He reminded them that many soldiers have died and that many people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have lived in a war zone this entire time, and have suffered greatly because of it. Again, they were quiet ... and thoughtful ... and sad.

Then he told them what the President had said the night before. That Bin Laden had been killed. This, too, he stated calmly with no commentary of any kind, really - very matter of fact. His body language conveyed (to me) that he was satisfied it had happened but was more sorry that it had to.

And so how did they respond?

Well, I observed a subtle, slight sense of relief, as if they were taking in that this world was down one real life boogie man. But they didn't cheer and dance around the table. They were thoughtful. Their reactions came in the form of questions.

So, can the wars stop?
Can the mommies and daddies come home now?
Can the people in those countries live in peace?

Oh to be able to answer those questions with a "yes". But all we could manage to come up with was, "I don't know. I hope so. That is what we pray for."

"Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"

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