Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Four-Year-Old Talks About War

The following is a condensed version of a piece written by my wife's sister Freda Zehr of Greenwood, Delaware, describing a conversation she had some time ago with her grandson.

If only every four-year-old could be assured that there could never be a war where there were children. Meanwhile, he's just trusting that no caring, sensible adults would ever let that happen.

Dax Talks About War       - Freda Zehr

My young grandson Dax saw a picture in the paper some time ago of a football star planning to enlist in the army. Evidently he had been worrying about people having to go to war and fight, so he asked, "Do soldiers just kill the bad guys?"

Without waiting for an answer, he went on, "The reason I don't want to be a soldier is because I wouldn't know who the bad guys or the good guys are, so I might shoot the wrong person. And I wouldn’t want to even shoot a bad guy, anyway.”

Then he said, reassuringly, “There is never any war in this country. It’s only over in countries where there are no children.” His voice suggested an urgent note of “I hope so, I hope so.”

He went on, “Because the reason you can't have a war where children live is because you might kill them by accident." He then added, "Oh yes, I forgot, there was a war once in this country, but that was before any children lived here, because I saw the cannon down in Harrisonburg. They shot big things out of it, but it didn’t hit any children because there were no children living here then. It was about a million years ago."

"And anyway, I could never be a soldier,” he went on, “because you have to have millions of money to fly over in those jets  and I don't have any money, and daddy and mommy don't have enough money for me to do that. Besides, all the wars will be over by the time I grow up, right Grandma?"

“I certainly hope so,” I said.

"And you know,” he said, “I will be too short to be a soldier when I grow up, because my mom is short and my daddy is not tall."

Meanwhile, having scanned more of the article, I told him, "Oh, here it says this man didn’t have to go to war after all. It says that he had a bad knee that got hurt in a football game."

“So I don't need to worry do I, grandma, because you have to have good knees, and I have a sore knee (no one had heard this before), and you have to have lots of money and you have to be real, real tall like Uncle Jay (who is six-foot-four) and anyway, there will never be any more wars by the time I grow up."

Later when his mother came home from work, he said, "Guess what, mommy, I don't have to go to war because I have a bad knee and when I jump on it, it hurts. Watch this, mommy, see?" whereupon he climbed  up on a table and jumped off and then rubbed his knee. "See that really hurt my knee, so grandma said I don't need to go to war and be a soldier."

No one remembered ever having talked with Dax about the subject of becoming a soldier, though his parents assumed he had picked up snatches from the news and maybe from other children at day care. His mother did recall his asking about the cannon in front of the former Harrisonburg High School.
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