Okay, so technically I am on vacation this week. But last night's announcement by President Obama about the death of Osama bin Laden has raised an important question: What do you tell your kids about this whole issue?
I might have just not mentioned this to my little ones for now, but on the way to take my son to preschool, I was listening to NPR as I usually do (and out of habit), and of course, the stories were all about bin Laden. I was distracted and not thinking. And was listening intently to the report, forgetting that my kids were listening in the back. Then my daughter asked me who the man they were talking about was and why was everyone so happy that he was dead.
Now, I personally believe that honesty is the best policy. I don't like lying to my kids. But I also know that they don't need to know every detail. And I think it is important to put things in way that they can understand. But sometimes I just don't know the right answers.
So here's how our conversation went:
"Mami, who are they talking about and why are they so glad he's dead?"
Big deep breath and thinking quickly. "Ten years ago a very, very bad man attacked our country and killed a lot of innocent people. Our government has been looking for him ever since, trying to find him to bring him to justice. And now they have. Many of our soldiers have fought and sacrificed to keep our country safe."
"Why did he attack our country?"
"Oh, probably for a lot of reasons. Partially because we don't believe in the same things he did. But mostly because he went bad on the inside and was just a really horrible person."
"And now he's dead?"
"Yes. Our armies have been looking for him for a really long time, since before you were born, and they finally found him. But when they went in to get him, there was a fight and he died."
"Oh, that's good."
"Well, yes and no. It is really wonderful that he will never hurt people again, but it is sad because we should never kill someone. Doing that is wrong. And it makes other people think that it is okay to do so. And we should never be happy that someone has been killed. Life is precious."
"But he was bad. And people hated him."
"Yes, he was. And what he did was terrible and hurt so many, many families. But hating someone who hates you, doesn't make them stop hating you. It actually just makes it worse. And we should always, always try to find another way to deal with someone who is bad or hateful."
"But maybe sometimes there is no other way."
And with that I didn't know what to say. How do you tell a child that you are relieved someone so awful is dead without implying that it is okay to kill someone? That rejoicing is inappropriate, but it is okay to be grateful to the men and women who have fought and died in the war, and who finally have accomplished what we have all wanted for so long? And how do you explain how it is wrong to wish someone dead, when after 9/11, I hoped and even prayed that he would suffer and pay for what he did not only to all the people who died and their families, but to this entire nation?
It is hard to teach something that you struggle with yourself.
And so, I wish to leave you my dear readers with these quotes that I read today:
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. "
"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.