June 06, 2008

Why Do People Kill Each Other

Earlier today my son asked me to explain to him what war is like and why people kill each other. It is a hell of a question and one that he has asked before. I am not a soldier. I haven't been to war.

I have been in a number of hairy situations. I have seen the after effects of a bombing and have been in the E.R. when they have brought in shooting victims. I have been in a number of fist fights, been hit with brooms, rocks and a chain, but never shot. Not that I am complaining, I am not.

I can't say that I believe that you have to be a vet to explain why people go to war either. I can offer descriptions of what war is like based upon things I have read or heard, but fortunately do not have any first hand experience. The closest thing I have got is what I have seen in films.

If push comes to shove I'll tell you that I believe that sometimes you have to fight and that there are wars that are necessary. I am not a peacenik, by any means. But when it comes to discussing this with the kids I am cautious.

Today is the 64th anniversary of D-Day. I wrote a post that covered some of the history in more detail than here. If you are interested you can find it here. We are indebted to those men.

Anyway, be it coincidence or otherwise today is the day that he hammered me with questions about war and why people kill each other. He is all of 7.5 so I wrestled with how much to tell him, how sophisticated I should be in my response.

He has lost so much of his innocence about the world. He knows that bad people sometimes do things to children and that not every marriage lasts. He knows that some people steal and that life doesn't always have a happy ending. So providing him with some information is not going to be the straw that broke the camel's back either.

I did my best to explain that sometimes people just can't get along and that sometimes they fight in a way that isn't nice. I told him that I thought that war should be a last resort and that you should try and avoid it.

But I also told him that if you have to fight to defend yourself you have an obligation to do so in a manner that takes care of the situation, short term band aids are a poor solution.

He nodded his head and told me that he thought he understood. He explained that one of his classmates parents had split up. I asked him what he meant and he gave me a perfectly suitable description of a couple who have divorced.

I nodded my head and asked him to continue. He explained that Tommy's parents couldn't get along any more and that they had decided to live in different houses. And then he told me that Tommy said that he was much happier because his folks didn't fight anymore, that they were friends now.

Just as I thought I had skated by and managed to avoid spending the evening discussing war he came back to it. He wanted to know how his grandfathers had managed not to be killed. I reassured him that going to war wasn't a death sentence, but that you really didn't want to have to go unless you had to.

He sighed and told me that he was happy to hear that. And then he asked me to promise that I wouldn't get killed fighting a war either. I smiled and told him that they didn't like making guys my age soldiers.

Confession: I have no interest in being a soldier, but I hated saying "guys my age" as if we are all that old. We're not. Compared to so many others I am just a babe in the woods.

Oy, I don't like 39 all that much. Sure it is better than the alternative, but...


FlutePrayer said...

This question has been heavy on my mind as I've worked with Holocaust survivor Laura Hillman all week. She is a remarkable woman who survived 8 concentration camps and was snatched from death by Oskar Schindler. All I can do is thank her for her bravery and hug her every chance I get.

benning said...

I think you did a fine job explaining to your son. He's a smart guy with a smart Dad.

Well done.

Jack said...


She sounds like a remarkable woman.


Fortunately the kid is smarter than his old man.