He was looking at the front page of the paper, a photo of very angry men in some middle eastern country, their mouths wide open, shouting. One man held another in his arms, his legs dangling, his head bloody.
Oliver scans the front page of the paper nearly every day and always asks What's going on here? Despite being in fourth grade, he hates to read and rarely finds out for himself by reading the captions under the photos, so I generally answer him as simply as possible.
There's a lot of trouble in that country, Oliver. Fighting, desperation. They're angry here because this person died in the fighting.
I've written a lot on this blog about Oliver's love of soldiers, armies, as he's always called them, whether single or many and much to the disgust and chagrin of his older brother Henry. They're called soldiers, not armies, Henry corrects him, pushing the papers aside for the sports section, his sole interest. Henry is perhaps more like his father and I -- pacifists, for the most part, disdainful of authority, particularly the military kind. I lean and keen toward non-violence and am conflicted when it comes to honoring the military, even soldiers sometimes. I find it even more difficult to speak to my children about my beliefs when nearly everything in our culture glorifies violence or at the very least, justifies it for some greater good.
Recently, Oliver created a pretty incredible tableau of toy soldiers and a bound plastic action figure. The action figure was actually Houdini, and he sat in a plastic chair, bound by a straight jacket, his mouth gagged. Oliver had placed tiny soldiers around the chair, their guns drawn and one standing with a knife at the prisoner's throat. The entire scene was filmed by Oliver on his iPod Touch, where he carefully explained that the bad man Gaddafi, from that country, I think Afghanistan, (it's Libya, Henry corrected, his eyes rolling), is getting ready to be killed by the good soldiers. I told Oliver that I admired the creativity, but the scene was disturbing to me because I don't like killing, no matter what.
This morning, I felt revulsion when I read about the death of the son of Libya's Qaddafi and his three grandchildren. I put the paper away before Oliver could see it and ask me, What's going on here?
Because really, how does one explain that the good guys have killed the children -- the grandchildren -- of the bad guys?
Claire over at Life with a severely disabled child recently posted this clip from the great movie Witness. I'd forgotten about the movie and this scene.
The old man's answer is mine, I think. What is yours?