And Justice For All

Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer

Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tonight my children learned about Osama Bin Laden. Tonight my children learned about 9/11 and the murder of thousands. Tonight they watched the news of Bin Laden’s death alongside me and I cursed him for it. I cursed Bin Laden for the murder of innocents and innocence. I cursed him for forcing my hand and having to take a piece of their childhood away from them.

Because tonight I confirmed that while there are no monsters under their beds or in the closets there are monsters who walk amongst us. My soon to be 10.5 year-old asked me if we murdered a murderer and whether we have to go kill his kids. My almost seven year-old asked why he was so mean and then told me that she wasn’t afraid because daddy will kill bad people. Her older brother nodded his head and smiled at me as he confirmed that she was correct.

And as they broke my heart and warmed my soul with their trust I sat and listened to President Obama and considered what to tell these children of mine. Sat and thought about what to explain and how to explain it. Wondered if I had made a mistake in letting them watch this and realized that I wouldn’t have been happy had I not.

These decisions are hard…so very hard to make. I writeposts about these thoughts to help sort out my feelings and chronicle some of the more important events and moments. These are the days where you remember that there are no hard and fast rules for parenting. These are the moments when I struggle for words that will convey the answers that they need in the most appropriate way. I remember the day that he asked me what a gas chamber was and how I did my best to answer in a way that was appropriate.

I am not a pacifist. I believe that there are times when you must go to war. I believe that when you go to war you unleash hell upon the other side. I believe that it is ok to say that some ideologies are morally superior to others. I believe that the families of “evil” people probably cry when their sons/daughters die just as we do for our own children. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot or should not protect ourselves.

I believe that a smart society educates its citizenry and provides affordable healthcare for them. I believe that smart parents and smart people judge others based upon actions. I don’t believe that the death penalty is always a deterrent nor do I believe that it should be outlawed.

A smart society looks out for all of its citizenry from the weak to the strong. It protects those within its embrace and those without.

I can write on about my beliefs. I can write 10,000 words on why I believe these things. I can cite the Constitution and explain why I believe it is a living document. I can tell you how the Electoral College works and sing along to all sorts of School House Rock Songs about the U.S. government. I can do all this and more but I can’t quite make sense of the senseless.

I can’t tell you that I feel good about speaking with my children about these things or why it is surreal that the news about Bin Laden was released on Holocaust Remembrance Day and that on this day in 1945 they announced that Hitler was dead.

What I can tell you is that as I tried to sort it all out in my head I told my kids that they are safe. I told them that they don’t have to worry about tornadoes here and promised that I would protect them. When my daughter asked me if I would kill bad people who tried to hurt them I said yes. I didn’t engage in a philosophical discussion about whether it is right or wrong. Didn’t tell her that she probably didn’t have to worry about it because it was unlikely to be a problem. I just said yes because I knew that she didn’t need more than that.

And when her older brother told me that he knew that I would say that I smiled and hugged him.

And then I walked out of their room and turned on mindless television for a while. There would be plenty of time to read and watch the news later. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel badly about OBL. Fact is that I hope he suffered. That is not nice nor will it bring back those who died because of him, but it is true.

Now I hope that we can use his death to come together as a country and try to do a better job of fixing what is broken because in my mind that ultimate up yours would be to come back unified and stronger. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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29 Comments

  1. Columbiarose May 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    One of the effects of evil in the world is that we must decide what to do when looking it in the face. One of the sorrows of parenting is the realization that we cannot protect our children from evil forever. Rather, we must equip them to carry on the struggle. No matter how old they are, we feel they are too young to lose their innocence so soon. At the risk of adding to the misattributed quotes currently flying around, a statement with many variations commonly attributed to Edmund Burke goes something like “All that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” Burke did write, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Our job as parents done right is to equip our children so that some day they’ll be ready and won’t need us any more. We have a duty to our children to equip them to deal with this, to not do nothing. The first step is to show them exactly what you did, that you are strong enough to talk about the complexity of evil.

    • The JackB May 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm

      The only way to combat evil and bad deeds are for people to speak up. It is often far easier to remain quiet and that is when the “bad stuff” really takes place. Because silence offers acceptance and over time people begin to think that it is ok to engage in things that are not ok.

      • Columbiarose May 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm

        Yes. We have a duty to speak up. Kids will look for answers. If we parents aren’t willing or capable to be that source, they’ll go look elsewhere for how to make sense, or peace, of it all, without the maturity to decipher whether the source is a solid one. At the least, I want my kids to learn from me the nuance of combatting evil for peace and not a cycle of revenge.

        I just saw this statement from the Vatican press office. It doesn’t apply just to Christians though. “Osama Bin Laden – as everyone knows – has had the gravest responsibility for spreading hatred and division among people, causing the deaths of countless people, and exploiting religion for this purpose.

        Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.”

        Evil means that sometimes peace takes work. Your kids saw you working and gained hope.

  2. Columbiarose May 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    One of the effects of evil in the world is that we must decide what to do when looking it in the face. One of the sorrows of parenting is the realization that we cannot protect our children from evil forever. Rather, we must equip them to carry on the struggle. No matter how old they are, we feel they are too young to lose their innocence so soon. At the risk of adding to the misattributed quotes currently flying around, a statement with many variations commonly attributed to Edmund Burke goes something like “All that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” Burke did write, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Our job as parents done right is to equip our children so that some day they’ll be ready and won’t need us any more. We have a duty to our children to equip them to deal with this, to not do nothing. The first step is to show them exactly what you did, that you are strong enough to talk about the complexity of evil.

    • The JackB May 4, 2011 at 9:38 pm

      The only way to combat evil and bad deeds are for people to speak up. It is often far easier to remain quiet and that is when the “bad stuff” really takes place. Because silence offers acceptance and over time people begin to think that it is ok to engage in things that are not ok.

      • Columbiarose May 4, 2011 at 10:23 pm

        Yes. We have a duty to speak up. Kids will look for answers. If we parents aren’t willing or capable to be that source, they’ll go look elsewhere for how to make sense, or peace, of it all, without the maturity to decipher whether the source is a solid one. At the least, I want my kids to learn from me the nuance of combatting evil for peace and not a cycle of revenge.

        I just saw this statement from the Vatican press office. It doesn’t apply just to Christians though. “Osama Bin Laden – as everyone knows – has had the gravest responsibility for spreading hatred and division among people, causing the deaths of countless people, and exploiting religion for this purpose.

        Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.”

        Evil means that sometimes peace takes work. Your kids saw you working and gained hope.

  3. Constantin Gabor May 4, 2011 at 3:29 am

    Oh… do you all really think 9/11 was put up by a guy in a cave? His body thrown in the seas? …very conveniently fabricated. Don’t wanna get into political arguments but it amazes me that very few question what they see on TV….

  4. Constantin Gabor May 4, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Oh… do you all really think 9/11 was put up by a guy in a cave? His body thrown in the seas? …very conveniently fabricated. Don’t wanna get into political arguments but it amazes me that very few question what they see on TV….

  5. Andrea B. May 2, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    This post was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

  6. Andrea B. May 3, 2011 at 2:26 am

    This post was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

  7. Dana K May 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on my “osama” post. I am glad I got the chance to read this. The statement that really sticks out to me is this: “that ultimate up yours would be to come back unified and stronger.” I agree with this 100%. We need to come out of this a better, stronger nation from the inside. We can fight “terror” all we want, but we need to make some serious strides forward as a country.

    • The JackB May 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      It would make me very happy to see the sniping and infighting stop for a while. Too many people are too interested in finger pointing and making the other side look bad. I am tired of it. Time to set some of this crap aside and fix things or at least make a real effort to.

  8. Dana K May 3, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on my “osama” post. I am glad I got the chance to read this. The statement that really sticks out to me is this: “that ultimate up yours would be to come back unified and stronger.” I agree with this 100%. We need to come out of this a better, stronger nation from the inside. We can fight “terror” all we want, but we need to make some serious strides forward as a country.

    • The JackB May 3, 2011 at 12:35 am

      It would make me very happy to see the sniping and infighting stop for a while. Too many people are too interested in finger pointing and making the other side look bad. I am tired of it. Time to set some of this crap aside and fix things or at least make a real effort to.

  9. Erica Allison May 2, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Thanks to Mimi for sharing this on Gini’s blog and thanks to you, Jack for sharing it with me. I discussed some of these same issues with my son last night when we watched a Dateline episode on the wounded warriors returning from battle and the impact that has on their families. I don’t want to discuss this AT ALL with my son or my daughter, but I kept the show on, let him ask questions and answered as best we could. It’s always much harder for us to talk about things like this, or death, with our children than it is for them. They are often very black and white, seeking definitive answers. We are very grey and like to talk in possibilities and scenarios. I liked the way you responded to your daughter. Thanks again.

    • The JackB May 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      Hi Erica,

      It wasn’t easy to speak with the kids about these things but they can’t be hidden. Time comes for a real discussion that involves what is really happening and last night was it. I didn’t like it, but I wanted to have some control/say over how they learned about this.

  10. Erica Allison May 2, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks to Mimi for sharing this on Gini’s blog and thanks to you, Jack for sharing it with me. I discussed some of these same issues with my son last night when we watched a Dateline episode on the wounded warriors returning from battle and the impact that has on their families. I don’t want to discuss this AT ALL with my son or my daughter, but I kept the show on, let him ask questions and answered as best we could. It’s always much harder for us to talk about things like this, or death, with our children than it is for them. They are often very black and white, seeking definitive answers. We are very grey and like to talk in possibilities and scenarios. I liked the way you responded to your daughter. Thanks again.

    • The JackB May 3, 2011 at 12:36 am

      Hi Erica,

      It wasn’t easy to speak with the kids about these things but they can’t be hidden. Time comes for a real discussion that involves what is really happening and last night was it. I didn’t like it, but I wanted to have some control/say over how they learned about this.

  11. Mimi Meredith May 2, 2011 at 8:06 am

    I loved this post. Thank you, thank you, thank you for offering up part of what has been hovering around my heart.

  12. Mimi Meredith May 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I loved this post. Thank you, thank you, thank you for offering up part of what has been hovering around my heart.

  13. Stan Faryna May 2, 2011 at 3:25 am

    I think you’ll have to show the path forward, Jack. The path to coming together starts with beers and mojitos, but we’ll need some good ideas after the hangover.

    Here’s my approach: http://wp.me/pbg0R-b

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