Sunday, March 23, 2008

Will I ever have the answers?

The other day Adam walked up from his little cubby in the family room that is basically Xbox 360 Central. He found me sitting in my favorite spot in the house. He was angry...ranting about the injustices of being 12...scheduled bedtimes, showers, homework, the fact that someone ruined his hieroglyphics project at school. The list was endless. Finally (I can be a little slow), realizing this wasn't about tween angst, I asked what was up.

My little guy with tears in his eyes asked why so many people were dying in this war. Why is there war? Why do people have to kill people? I have a hard enough time explaining war to myself. So, to try to explain it to Adam was near impossible. I was honest...I don't know the reasons, nor the answers. As far as I'm concerned, war is senseless. His response is that we should kill who is responsible. Well...that sure would make a lot of people happy in this country, but is quite illegal and I'm not sure killing over killing is the answer. There is so much senseless death at the moment.

Not just regarding war. Look at our college campuses, malls, every senseless act of violence to speak of. I never really realized until now how odd the phrase "senseless act of violence" truly is. Of course violence is senseless. What initial act of violence ever makes sense?

Adam is afraid. Afraid of war. Will he have to go there one day? God, I hope not. When he was 8 he wanted to be a Navy Seal. He loved the idea of saving the world...being a hero. Now with a little acquired wisdom over the past third of his life, he realizes that the act of being a hero could get him killed. I don't want to raise a coward, but I, just like every other parent in this world, wants to keep my children safe for as long as humanly possible.

A couple of weeks ago, our family celebrated my mom's birthday. We were all sitting around the table, Mike and Renee, Mark, Ashley and Donny as well as Kat, Adam, myself and the birthday girl. Kat who is loving world history was discussing war with her uncles. Now, as liberal as we are, Mark and Mom are as conservative. Renee sides with us, Mike somewhere in between. Ashley is definitely her father's child and Donny, smart guy that he is, kept his mouth closed. I really don't know where his political views stand and with our heated group, he was probably smart to keep quiet. Ashley could have dumped him, or Kat thrown him out of the house (don't be messin' with my girl in a heated debate).

Mark made the comment that we should just bomb Iraq and Afghanistan. I have always taken issue with the thought of bombing to stop a war. The photos from Hiroshima were burned into my brain at a very young age and make me shiver upon thought. Kat jumped on to her Uncle's statement and ran with it. Much to her dismay though, Kat adds comic relief even when she is discussing a serious topic. I will first attempt to explain what she meant to say, and then replace it with what she did say.

Kat learned in world history about Shiites and Sunnis. If I have my facts correctly, the Sunnis are 90% of the population and are not the extremists whereas the Shiites are the other 10% crazy people. If I'm wrong flip flop it. It boils down to 90% good - 10% bad. (So...after that statement you understand where Kat gets her comic relief.) ANYWAY...Kat wanted to know why we should bomb a whole country when 90% of the people are thrilled that they have some sort of democracy. Why bomb a country when only 10% are problematic?

Unfortunately, Kat being Kat and completely hyped up over the fact that she had her facts and figures straight even if she jumbled up the names.

Her argument started with, "Uncle Buddha (a loving nickname given to Mark after he survived a 20 foot fall, crushing his entire right side and subsequently gaining a few pounds during recovery. Don't feel too bad about Mark's Buddha nickname...he's nicknamed her Kat-Tastrophe!!), how can you even think about wiping out a whole country when 90% of the people are good? The Shinazi's are only 10% of the population. They are the crazy ones. You can't massacre a complete country when 90% of the people haven't done anything wrong."

We all stopped at Shinazi.

The whole table at the same time looked at Kat and asked, "SHINAZIS?!!?"

"Yeah, Shinazi's! You know the bad guys. The Shinazis! They only make-up 10% of the population. Shinazis!!" (looking at us all like we are idiots.) I'm envisioning Hitler with a burka.

After repeated questioning of what the hell she was talking about, Mike finally figured it out. You mean the Shiites and the Sunni's? What the hell are Shinazi's? And Kat in her Katlike ability to dismiss anything and everything, "Well, you knew what I was talking about, so what's the big deal?"

Actually, we could replace the names with Sharks and Jets. Tulips and buttercups. Who cares what they are called? Do we really need to annihilate a whole country so our loved ones can come home? We have just hit a new milestone in this war: 4,000 US troops killed in Iraq. When will it end?

How do I explain the fact that men and women are over there fighting for us. For our freedom. We need to thank them, yet I can't stomach the fact that they are there. It makes me frustrated and angry because I can't fathom what it would be like to send a son or daughter to war. The not knowing. Just book me a padded cell, please.

Do I tell my son that? If he's scared. Should he see me scared as well? Shouldn't I be the strong one with answers? What if I don't know the answers? Do I punt? Parental punting is OK with minor issues. Not sure I should advocate punting with issues like this. My guy was sad, scared and needed to know that it will all be OK. Do I lie and say it will be fine and pray that it will be very soon. Jeez we've been in this war for 5 years. How much longer will it be? In 6 years he could enlist. I'm sure there are some parents out there now who 5 years ago had a 13 year old and were positive the war would be over before their son or daughter turned 18. How many of those teens have enlisted? How many of those teens will die before its over?

I understand protecting our country. But it sickens me that it has to be done.

The morning of 9/11 I remember that I left for work late that day. I was going to drive the kids to school for some odd reason. Adam was in kindergarten, Kat in 3rd grade. Adam dressed in overalls and a horizontal striped shirt. Funny how you remember the oddest things. Our neighbor called to say a plane hit one of the twin towers. We turned on the TV. I was expecting to see a prop plane. That is when we saw the second plane hit. Adam turned to me and asked if they were drunk drivers. Truly, out of the mouth of babes. Comprehending that this wasn't some accident, yet not fully wrapping my head around the events, Kat stated what I was thinking. Mom, that wasn't an accident was it? No, Baby. I don't think so.

I was sick to my stomach.

Kat couldn't handle the events. Someone suggested that if she was so upset, I should protect her from the images. How do I protect her when it was everywhere. She refused to have the TV on because she couldn't stand seeing the constant coverage. She refused to walk into a grocery store because the images were plastered on every magazine and newspaper. When everyone else cheered because we heard planes again, my daughter shook at the sound of their engines overhead. They were a reminder and a source of fear. Any time a plane flew over our house, she ran inside afraid it was going to crash. The Sunday after the attack, I was reading the Tribune, my chair facing the hallway, when I heard a noise. I lowered my paper to find my 9 year old daughter sitting cross legged on the floor, rocking back and forth in the hallway, sucking her thumb, holding a blanket and teddy bear. I didn't realize the back page of the Trib showed people jumping from the tower. It was her first image that morning. How horrible.

Again, I was sick to my stomach. I can hug my children and tell them I love them. Calm their fears and tell them it's going to be OK. Tell them what they need to hear. What they want to hear. Yet, I don't know how to talk to my children about war. I'm not an advocate, yet I know it is a necessary evil. I don't have the answers. Will I ever? If so, do I really want to comprehend war?