This I Believe

Alison - Wooster, Ohio
Entered on January 12, 2007

I Believe in Having Real Conversations with My Children

“Is America winning?” my six-year-old son asked as we ate cereal. We avoid television, so his news source is NPR during the breakfast hour.

“What have I told you already?” I queried, knowing my son likes to hear answers to questions he’s asked repeatedly.

“You said, ‘It’s hard to know for sure,’” Preston replied—not at all bothered by my tossing the question back. “But,” he added, “you said America defeated that government!”–referring to Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime.

“Yes, but other problems came up afterward.”

Preston understands the war is unpopular and the President beleaguered. After asking why people were angry with the President, he wrote to him at the White House, saying, “You are a good President. I love you.”

No reply yet.

“I think my letter should be there by now,” Preston commented recently. “But maybe he’s in Texas.”

Concerning our current discussion, Preston anticipated victory. “I’ll bet American soldiers are winning! They’re tough fighters. They’ve been in wars before.”

“Yes, they have,” I agreed.

“Why did America want to get rid of the government in Iraq?” he asked, careful to pronounce “Iraq” correctly.

“Because the U.S. government thought the Iraqi government wanted to help people who were trying to attack America.”

“DID they attack America?”

With one breath I shook my young son’s world. “Yes, there was an attack–when you were just one year old.”

Preston’s widening eyes told me to be more specific. “In New York City,” I explained–limiting the scope of the story.

“But New York City is still there! It still belongs to the U.S. government, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, but people destroyed buildings there using airplanes as bombs; they crashed them into buildings.”

“But why did the people on the airplanes want to die??!!”

“Most of them didn’t—only the people who took over the planes.”

“Why did THEY want to die?”

“They believed it would please God and that they would go to heaven and be rewarded for dying that way.”

“But they went to hell, right?”

“Well, I am not God, so I do not know for certain.”

“I KNOW they went to hell!”

“You may be right; they killed many people when they crashed into those buildings. The U.S. government went to war in Afghanistan where some of the people who planned that attack were living and working. Those people are part of a group called Al Qaeda. The U.S. government thought the government in Iraq also wanted to Al Qaeda, so it made war there, too.”

“DID Iraq help Al Qaeda?” Preston asked.

“I don’t know,” I admitted.

My ignorance caused Preston to take matters into his own hands. “I just HAVE to build my RADIO now so I can learn more about this!!” he exuberated while grabbing a box containing the Smithsonian emergency hand-crank radio kit he received for Christmas.

He is convinced it will satiate his thirst for information since I cannot.