Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who were the good guys?

God help me. I mindlessly told Jr.Gopher#1 that he couldn’t see some movie because it was a ‘war movie’. What, of course, did he say?

What’s a war, mom? uuuuhhhh...

me to self: ... pay attention to the road construction; being late to the dentist is better than needing orthodontic reconstruction surgery after a car crash ... oh, my god, what am I going to say?... pay attention to the road ...


I said something I hoped would avoid a more detailed answer, which included something along the lines of
‘when two countries get so angry with each other that they start fighting over it. Except in a war, the people also get killed. War is horrible.’

Thinking - stupid, stupid, stupid! - to put this in some sort of not-so-vague point, I said that Oma’s dad had been a soldier and had been in a really big war in Germany.

“Was he one of the good guys?” fuck

“Well, sweetie, sometimes it’s not so easy to tell who’s the good guys.” so much for wanting to avoid weasel-worded answers...

“Did he die?”

“No, he came home from the war. He died later.”

Yes, I avoided mentioning he came home in 1953 after enduring god knows what as a Soviet POW. I’m not totally stupid, thank you.

Jr.Gopher#1 was hung up on the good-guy vs. bad-guy idea. I tried to think of a way to explain to a 6 year old the difference between stupid governments and nice people who happen to get sucked into fighting as soldiers for them.

“Some times countries go to war over stupid things. America got into a war like that when I was a little girl.” wow, I’m batting almost 1,000 on the stupidity scale in a mere 20 minutes

Again stupidly thinking of putting a more direct face on the matter, because he’s actually met my father, I added,

“Grandpa Bob was a soldier and fought in a war.”
“Did he die?” huh?

“No. Your grandfather? You met him. He came to my party and went to the zoo with us.”
“Did he kill anyone?” uhh...

In all the years since I discovered he had been in Viet Nam, I have never once considered whether or not he had killed anyone.

“Well, you can ask him. I’m sure he’ll tell you.”
I’m really curious about the answer.

My child not only doesn’t know what a war is (thank God), he has a terribly absolutist view of good and bad, like most children. How am I supposed to explain within such a polarized Weltanschaung that his great-grandfather was a soldier in the German army during World War 2, when the Germans were the Bad Guys, while I assume still being a nice man? Or that Uncle Joachim’s dad had fought in the same war, and the two men in question were apparently both devout Catholics who didn’t want to be in the war. Or that Opa’s father and Oma’s father had both fought in yet another big war in Germany, where Americans said they were the Bad Guys. Or that the German government being Bad didn’t make all of the soldiers Bad?

That’s right ... don’t explain it at all!!

Damn. I should have thought of that.

Damn. I should have just stopped while I was ahead.


I was also confronted with the realization that I’m not sure how I would have answered him, if the great-grandfather in question had been one of my grandfathers, i.e., American. Would I just off-the-cuff have said “yes, he was one of the Good Guys?”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you've made a good start in showing Jr. Gopher #1 the confusions of the adult world. Grown-ups make some really, really BIG mistakes sometimes....

As for good guys or bad guys, at some point, you may be able to show him that one day someone can be a good guy, but the next, because of choices he or she makes, a bad guy. If Jr. Gopher #1 wants to be a good guy, he'll need to make the choices necessary to do that. But then, he'll need to define for himself what he considers to be "good" and "bad." I think this Mosque business in NYC is a good example. Just because it's a Mosque close to the WTC site, some people are vehemently against it. But the Mosque is for a congregation of moderate muslims, and aren't those the good guys? It's the extremists we don't want lurking around our national memorial. And Pakstanis in some areas of that country are being taught that America hates Muslims and wants to wipe out Islam because American invaded Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan is supposedly next).

Jr. Gopher #1 is still too young for some of this stuff, still in the years of magical thinking, but if he loves reading and reads a lot, he's going to run into this stuff sooner rather than later. (smile) And he'll be asking you....