Katie and I were snowbound this morning, so we skipped church. We watched this great documentary I had picked up at the library on DVD. It's in the Families of the World series, called "Families of Afghanistan". Each video depicts families in various countries of the world, told from the perspective of two children, one who grows up in a rural household, and one who grows up in the city.
You can watch video clips of both the rural and urban Afghan households here:
I don't know who was more fascinated, Katie or me. Katie didn't know much about Afghanistan, so we had a great discussion both before and after we watched the video.
"Where is Afghanistan?" Katie asked. At seven, she's beginning to show an interest in geography. She was obsessed with Japan for a while, mostly due to her obsession with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but now her interest in other countries around the world is broadening.
"It's across the world. Close to China and Russia," I explained. I can never remember if Afghanistan is considered part of Asia or the Middle East, so I didn't bother going there. Some day Katie can explain it to me.
"Oooh," Katie said. "I want to go there some day." Katie said this without knowing anything else about it. She says this about all new countries she hears about. There's not a lot of money in blogging and working part-time at the public library, so instead of paying for world travel, all I can offer her is these library DVDs and good conversation. It seems to appease her so far.
"Yeah, it's kind of a dangerous place to travel right now, but hopefully some day it will be safe again and we can visit," I said.
"Why is it dangerous?" Katie asked.
Uh oh. Why'd I bring that up. Now what am I going to say?
"Well, our country has been at war with Afghanistan for a long time, since before you were born," I explained.
Katie's eyes grew huge. "Why?" she asked in the same tone she used when she was a preschooler and I had to break it to her that it was time to put our precious dog Beau to sleep.
"Well, it's a big story, and it's complex. And I don't think we should be at war with Afghanistan--"
"Me either!" Katie interrupted. It seems we're raising a fanatical pacifist, which is fine by me.
"That's the thing about war, Punk," I said. "A lot of times the people who live in the country don't want to be at war, but the governments go to war anyway. Just like you and me--" I waved my hand between us--"We don't want to be at war with other people, just like the people in this video--"I pointed at the TV screen--"They probably don't want to be at war with us, but their government is fighting anyway." I was making an assumption, having not seen the video yet. I was hoping Sting was right. I'd been brainwashed by him since I was a teenager during the Cold War to believe that all civilians love their children:
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too
"I want to be President when I grow up," Katie announced.
"Oh yeah? I thought you wanted to be a scientist?" I said, smiling.
"Well, I can be a scientist president. I can invent a way for there to be no more wars," Katie said with her chest puffed out like the greatest pacifist warrior.
I made a mental note to hand this kid a copy of Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle as soon as she's old enough to understand it.
We sat down together on the couch and watched the documentary. I was right in my hope. It appears the Afghans love their children too.
When it was over and we were discussing the video and our war in Afghanistan some more, Katie asked, "Mom, if we're at war with Afghanistan, how come we don't hear any bombs and gunfire and see people getting killed?"
"That's an excellent point, Punk. The fighting is going on way across the world in Afghanistan, not here. It's easy for people here to forget we're at war when we don't see it."
It's a balancing act, parenting. I'm glad my daughter doesn't witness soldiers dying in our streets, but I can't shelter her from reality by not talking about the war. If she's ignorant of the ugliness in the world, how can she can grow up to be the scientist president who invents a way for there to be no more wars?
As I stood from the couch, I asked Katie, "So did you like the video?"
"Yeah!" she exclaimed. "I think one day if we ever visit Afghanistan, those girls would be my friends."