Explaining the World to Children

Our three granddaughters, 10 yr.old twins and a 6 yr.old, draped on the sofa in our TV room, were absorbed in an animal program about orangutans. When it ended, we channel grazed. Anything else of interest? Across the screen spread the word “Apocalypse”.

“No, not that” said their father. Grandfather quickly switched channels.

“What was that? We want to see it.”

“No, it’s about a war.”

Changing channels, we unwittingly passed by“Apocalypse” again and a scene of bodies scattered about a field.

“Change it,” said their dad.

“But we want to see Apocalypse. What’s war?” asked one.

“Do people stay living in their houses when there’s a war?”

“Has there ever been a war here in Chile or the States?”

“No”, I answered. “People do stay in their houses (I omitted saying unless they’re being bombed). Soldiers go off to fight in other countries.”

I remember some time ago while watching TV with them (we DO engage in other activities besides TV), the news showed scenes of Syrians in a bombed-out neighborhood. One of the twins asked, “How can people live like that?”

What a difficult task the girls’ parents face protecting their children in this hyper-connected world, letting them be children as long as possible. I’m glad they ask these questions, questions that deserve to be answered. Issues like war need to be talked about. But why expose them to heart-breaking, graphic scenes of violence? How much do we tell them? They live with many fears as it is. Earthquakes, lightning and thunder, family deaths, stories of kidnapped children.

When my sons were growing up, we had no instantaneous cable news or live scenes of death and destruction filmed by embedded journalists. Although, they did live under a military dictatorship where bombs could sometimes be heard in the night. Even today, Chile is not free of violence, bombs placed by anarchists recently in the metro car and a metro station.  But this is nothing compared to what today’s children in the Middle East must endure.  They are being deprived of their childhoods.

Later in the evening, my mood was lightened by Fareed Zakaria’s “Take” at the end of his weekly show, also published as a column in The Washington Post. He claimed that in these times we are ‘awash in pessimism’, so many public figures declaring the world ‘a dark and dangerous place’. He says, ‘ Mistakes are made when ‘acting out of fear’,  providing examples from the past. To those that claim that President Obama is naive, Zakaria answers that Obama, being of a positive disposition, is an optimist. According to him (and I consider him a wise and learned man who has done his homework), history has shown the optimists have been right.

Another Post headline caught my eye: “War with Iran is Probably Our Best Option,” written bu Joshua Muravchik. I try to follow his complex arguments. I’m no Middle East expert, but for me war is the last alternative when all else has failed. We’ve seen the failed results of armed conflict over and over again.

I side with the optimists, and I’ll do my best to show to my grand daughters the great beauty and love that exist in our world.

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