Friday, March 21, 2003

CHILDREN AND WAR: A friend wrote yesterday:
With luck, my kids will grow up with no memory of this war. I hope, hope, hope that is true. And my heart is breaking for the kids in Iraq for whom that isn't true.
I pity those Iraqi children too, but I find it more heartbreaking to think of them spending the first years of their lives living under that monster Hussein's rule, and more heartbreaking yet to imagine them spending many more years -- if the anti-war/pro-saddam "peace" protestors had their way -- under his heel. And unlike my friend, I won't hide this war from my son, because I want him to learn that good people must resist evil and that resistance, not hand-wringing and spouting platitudes about "peace," is the moral course of action. I hope and pray that my children -- and Iraqi children -- won't have to fight wars of their own because good people now, led by President Bush who the "peace" protestors so revile, will eliminate the threat of outlaw states armed with WMD. But if we fail, or if this war can't be won in years, but in decades, then the next generation will have to carry on the fight and children like my son will have to learn the necessity of moral action over self-righteous preening. Besides, children aren't that fragile. In fact, it's almost unseemly the way we try to shelter them. Iraqi children have to live in a world of rape rooms and poison gas. Is it really too much to ask that our children know -- not experience, just know -- that evil men do evil deeds that threaten our way of life? My husband remembers his parents explaining the Cold War to him at age four ("The bad people have bombs and want to drop them on us, so we have to have bombs so that they won't.") and finding that explanation comforting. And why not? Parents teach their children that cars can squish them and strangers can hurt them; is it really just too traumatic to teach the little blighters the basic geopolitical facts of life? Of course, I couldn't hide this war from my son if I wanted to. What with the omnipresence of NPR in our household (we have a love-hate relationship) and his habit of coloring the pictures in the newspaper, he is quite familiar with President Bush and Saddam Hussein. In fact, just this morning he looked up from coloring President Bush green and asked me whether Saddam Hussein would ever learn to be good (he's a big believer in the basic goodness of people and possibility of redemption). So I told him the truth, that he's a wicked man who is unlikely to reform and that our country was fighting his country to take away his power. And my son said, "OK," and colored Hussein purple.

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