My son is your typical six year old. He builds forts, pretends to be a spaceman, and loves superheroes and Star Wars. We’ll run through the house having Nerf gun wars or erect elaborate battles between all of his Transformers and GI Joe’s. So it surprised me a while back as we drove past the naval shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia and pointed out the battleships being built. We thought he would be completely enthralled with them since he loves going to the US Airforce Museum and seeing all the planes. Then he did the normal six year old thing and asked “Why do they need to build battleships?”. “To protect us” seemed like a very good response at the time. But then he wanted to know what they were protecting us from. “Bad people who want to hurt us”, again seemed like an appropriate answer. Until he got scared and said “Why are there bad people who want to hurt us?”.
My wife ended the conversation there with, “It’s okay. No one’s going to hurt us”. Up to that point with all the wars, battles, guns, swords, etc. that have invaded our household with two little boys, I had never thought about needing to explain “Bad People” to my son. I had figured Disney had done a good job with that between Captain Hook and Cruella DeVille. But now it was real, not just a cartoon. He had been told there was a person who wanted to hurt him and he wanted to know why.
Why do they want to hurt me?
What did I do to them?
Why can’t I just say I’m sorry?
I’ve wound up in a couple of fights in my lifetime, giving into emotions in the heat of the moment. No matter how justified I feel at the time, after it’s all done I’ve always felt so guilty I’ve gone back and apologized. Some of my best friends have come out of those fights.
His questions are bigger than “War”. They’re questions about life. Questions I don’t have an answer for. Why do people rape? Why do people murder? Why do people kidnap? Why do people strap bombs to themselves and go to the market?
Is there anything we can do?
Does anyone even care?
In that moment I realized how far away I’ve kept myself from the reality of the world around me. We live a comfortable life. We’re desensitized to all the images that flash by on TV. I see the ADT commercials and say “That’ll never happen to me”. The sad thing is that there are bad people out there who want to harm me for reasons they probably can’t explain. What happened to these people that they want to do harm to people they’ve never met before?
I know there are people with mental disorders who can’t help it, but what about the people who hand down hate from one generation to another. To think there’s a 6 year on the other side of the world who’s being taught there’s a 6 year old in America who hates him because of his god or skin color blows me away. Where does it end? Does anyone want it to end?