Dragons and Bombs; or, Parental Thinking on Your Feet

Driving down a country road yesterday to pick up Papa and Napoleona:

SillyBilly asked, “Mama, what if a big dragon were coming here? What if it was flying up here from the south . . . from Los Angeles?”

Mama: “Hmmm . . . I wonder where it would land — in the mountains?”

SillyBilly: “Mama, what if a fighter jet flew over us and wanted to drop a bomb on us?”

We then talked about how we have air traffic control and the military that would prevent that from happening (as well as the unlikelihood of Pocatello being a major bomb target). And then he asked me, why do people want to drop bombs?

I said I couldn’t really imagine wanting to do anything like that myself, but sometimes people just are angry, or fearful, or don’t like other people, and they don’t know what else to do.

Then I said that sometimes there are “good” reasons. Like when we decide to participate in a war because we think what another country or their leader is doing is wrong. Like when, long ago when is grandparents were young, a leader of one country thought that he should invade and take over other countries, and also kill lots of people in his own country because he didn’t like who they were. Our country thought that was very wrong, and one way we stopped it was by bombing that “mean” country. Now we’re friends with that country again, and they don’t do that kind of thing any more.

SillyBilly asked if there were any wars going on right now. I said yes, there are always some happening somewhere. He asked me why.

I said, I guess it’s because people forget, or haven’t yet learned, how to be nice to each other and work things out. People are still sometimes afraid, or angry, or hateful.

I think I’ll wait a few years before I tell him about his own ancestors who were killed in that long-ago country that we bombed, and why it happened.



Filed under Deep Thoughts, Kid Talk, Politics, SillyBilly

21 responses to “Dragons and Bombs; or, Parental Thinking on Your Feet

  1. Difficult topic there…it sounds like you did a great job answering those tough questions.

  2. Oh Anthromama, what a tough discussion to have with a young son… I think your answer was perfect. Sometimes they need just enough to calm their fears.

  3. Well done on your answers. My daughter is 9, and we haven’t told her yet that the country she loves and lives in once did terrible things to people. I think she needs to be older in order to handle it.

    • Charlotte, I know it’s still a sensitive subject in Germany, at least among the older population. And the distinction between what a country does and what individuals do is a pretty fine and tricky one sometimes.

  4. Gosh, I hope when the time comes I can be as calm and cool as you were … out of the mouths of babes huh! How are you all going health-wise?

  5. I’m far more anti-war with my son (age 6). He was asking me about a war on the news, realizing that our country was fighting. I told him war, like fighting, is always wrong unless you have to protect yourself from someone who wants to hurt you. I also said I didn’t like war because most of the people who are killed are normal people who aren’t fighting, including a lot of children. I tried to tell him that some people do think they are helping, so he never should say bad things about soldiers.

    He came home from school once and said “America is the best country in the world, isn’t it?” I looked at him. “I don’t think so, I like Italy and Germany just as much.” He then said, “But we live here, so it’s the best.” I said, “you mean, like our house is the best house in the world because we live here.” He smiled, “Yes!” Then I said, “And if we moved to a different house, that house would then be the best, better than this one.” He again replied “Yes.” I just smiled.

    • National pride is a slippery slope, I think. It can be beneficial, as when people feel honored to serve their country, or to sacrifice for the country’s goals as Americans did in WWII. But of course it can become twisted as in the German case in that war, or as it has many times with jingoism here. Perhaps the difference is between being proud and honored by one’s country, and identifying oneself with it.

  6. it is such a tough question to answer, thinsg that are so hard to understand, even for us grown-ups.. you did a great job,mama!

  7. You did a great job in answering Billy’s questions. Of course, as I read the conversation, I realized that these are questions that I ask on a regular basis, with no really good answers coming to me.

    The cynic in me sometimes believes that we get into wars because the corporations who supply us with arms and munitions stand to make a huge profit if we do and they lobby seriously hard in order to keep us “at war”.

    Frankly, I am right there with Scott. I was raised in a religion that taught that war was always wrong unless you were defending your country’s borders against someone attacking you. However, the teachings of the Baha’i Faith allowed neighboring nations to arise to help defend the attacked, so I guess that forming alliances is not considered beyond the pale.

    I do not agree that any nation has the right to attack another because they do not like the leader’s policies. We did get involved in WWII when Japan actually bombed Pearl Harbor, and not just because we were upset by that country’s prior actions. Until that moment, we were content to stand by and wring our hands as Hitler invaded Europe and Japan attacked China. All this historical and political perspective is a little too advanced to explain to someone as young as Billy, however.

    I’m not sure I would have been able to come up with as good a response.

    Too bad there are so many stories out there that present dragons in a negative context. I think you should try hard to find a copy of “The Reluctant Dragon” by Kenneth Grahame (yep, the same one who wrote “The Wind in the Willows”). This is a very short book which lends itself to being read aloud and presents dragons in a very different light than the St. George sorts of stories do. Then you could have asked Billy what sort of poetry he thought that dragon might want to write.

    • I have a cynic like that, too.

      When I was talking to SillyBilly, I really didn’t think of Japan but only Germany and their actions within their borders and throughout Europe. You’re right that the overall story of WWII is too complex for me to talk to him about. But as Nana mentioned, the Holocaust is part of our family history, and some day I will talk to him and his sister about all that, too.

      We have a lovely abridged, illustrated version of The Reluctant Dragon along with E. Nesbit’s The Book of Beasts. We’ll have to get that one out again, especially in anticipation of Michaelmas.

  8. Nana

    For all of you who are opposed to war unless it is to defend ourselves, my Grandparents and Uncle were killed in the Holocaust and my Aunt was a suvivor of Auschvitz. Millions of innocent lives were lost. These people were not soldiers or provocateurs; they were people like you all and me. The old, weak, frail, as well as those in their prime and children, even infants were systematically destroyed. Should America have stood by and just let this continue to happen? Actually this country did exactly that until Pearl Harbor.

    • I find it very hard to justify going to war, even in the cases you describe. On the other hand, I can also feel how justified it can be. I suppose it’s kind of like how I feel about other issues such as abortion rights: it’s not something I would want to do, but I’m not sure I want to take away the ability of others to decide for themselves.

      I can also feel how much of a moral problem we create when we create a boundary between “us” and the “others” who might need our help. How is one group who is being attacked or exterminated, such as Kuwaitis, South Vietnamese, or German Jews, any more worthy of our assistance or intervention than another group, such as Rwandans, Sudanese, or Tibetans? Where do we draw the line between us and them? Who are allies and who are enemies?

      If “systematic destruction” were the moral criterion for the US to become involved militarily, then we’d have a lot more military action than we do.

    • What is really sick about the whole WWII situation is that the US had quite a number of people who approved of Hitler, the owner of the Ford Company was one of them, and who did business with the regime until forced to quit by our declaration of war. The truly sad fact is that in this country there were and are plenty of racists and anti-any-religion-not-theirs-ists, who don’t give a thought to death and oppression of people who are different from them.

      In the present moment there are millions of people in Africa affected by the conflagrations of civil wars, I just read an article two days ago about dozens of non-combatants killed in a raid in Sudan. Mostly those things are not even reported in this country, especially not in the “red states”, after all, the news outlets are fully aware that the people living in them don’t care what happens to a bunch of Africans. They aren’t “like us”, they are primitive savages, whatever.

      When I read the history, I’m afraid that if Japan had never attacked our precious soils we might have sat idly by watching the whole situation in Europe deteriorate, with many industrialists happy to profit from the war.

      And that profit from war is just one of the things that makes it so heinous in my eyes.

  9. Szilvi

    On the lighter subjects of dragons: I very much liked the way Michael Ende depicted the dragon in one of the Jim Knopf books (don’t remember which one, I suspect the first). She was VERY evil indeed, kidnapping and holding children hostage and mistreating them in her “school”, but when later treated and handled a certain way by Jim and Lukas, she went into some long, deep, transforming sleep to emerge as the Golden Dragon of Wisdom.
    I prefer such depictions to dragons (or tigers or whatevers) who simply don’t fit into the regular dragon-society because they are not evil.
    I like the idea that EVERY dragon can be changed into the Golden Dragon of Wisdom…

    • Szilvi, so nice to hear from you!

      I agree, I like stories where the dragon is transformed rather than killed while still considered to be evil. Certainly there must be stories from China that have that, since dragons are seen in a different light in that culture.

      One nice depiction is in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis. It’s very Christian, of course, but also with a very Michaelic flavor in how the boy literally becomes a dragon and then through the pain of that experience learns and becomes a quite new person. Definitely transformative.

  10. Tricky, tricky questions. I’ve experienced not dissimilar levels of awkwardness recently with dudelet around swine flu. (“What is it?” “Will we get it?” “Does it hurt?” “Do people die?” “Why?” etc).

  11. Szilvi

    thanks for the book idea. My older ones love the Narnia books, and since I wasn’t raised a christian, I don’t even recognize some of the christian-ness in C.S. Lewis, yet I have not encountered anything in his books I was opposed to my kids reading.

  12. You handled that beautifully… well done.

  13. best yet Here’s some pass forward: Thought for the day? : Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

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