Kids and I had an interesting war talk in the car last night returning from an art/science fair event at M’s school. S had remained behind to oversee events in the library (I love that they call them libraries again. My elementary school had a library until I reached 4th grade – circa 1972 or 73 – when it morphed into a Media Center. From then on, through Junior High and High School, we all checked out books at the Media Center. All they really had at the time were books – unlike today’s “libraries”. I just like the name library—everyone knows they have computers.)
Back to the story: M states that her friend has an Aunt in the “Army” who is pregnant. “Better not tell Mom,” says the Dude. “No,” we can tell her says M, because, “She is leaving the Army to have the baby.”
A little background: Mom has earned the reputation of being a militant pacifist in our home. Apparently the kids are “on to her” and now avoid talk of war, and war like things – including service in the military.
I said it was nice that she was getting out to have the baby. The Army is a dangerous place to raise a family, etc. . . Despite my efforts at nice talk and diversion, the Dude asks, “Why do we have armies?”
“To protect us,” I say. “They help us with ‘bad guys’ and sometimes help clean up natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.” Even in Mom’s absence, I was trying to put the best spin possible on the subject.
“Do they shoot hurricanes? How does that stop them?” said the Dude.
I explained that they don’t stop natural disasters by shooting at them; instead they use all their heavy equipment to clean up. The Army has lots more “big stuff” that helps when there is a big disaster.
Now for my side of the story: Since I’m not the militant pacifist in the family, I thought it would be a good time to discuss war in general. “Grandpa was in the war you know?” They kind of know this, but I wanted to make sure they understood. My father served in the Army in WWII, seeing combat in France and Germany.
I explained Hitler (M had seen a TV show with him the other day on PBS), and how he tried to “take over the world”. The Dude has watched enough videos to understand that “taking over the world” is not a good thing. I explained Austria, Poland, Norway, France, and England – how the US got in to help beat the “bad guys”. I then explained how we chased them back into Germany where they surrendered.
I explained that Grandpa fought against Germans.
“Germans?” asked the Dude, a little shocked that we could fight an entire nation of people. “Why didn’t they just try to shoot Hitler since he was the bad guy.”
“Well, they tried – or actually they tried to blow him up.” OK – here I’m getting in pretty deep. Didn’t expect to have to recall the plot to assassinate Hitler. I explained that it didn’t work, and Hitler lived, but it wasn’t too long before they Germans surrendered.
Then, as quickly as the conversation started, it jumped the war track and went on to more mundane subjects.