The Kids Are Not All Right

There’s a scene in an old M*A*S*H episode where a huge amount of garbage is dropped from a helicopter onto an unsuspecting character. One minute the guy is just sitting in a jeep and then all of a sudden wham! Has anybody else been feeling like the guy in the jeep lately? I mean, just think about the stories we’ve read or the images we’ve seen over the last month or so.


The U.S. under Bush now participates in assassinations and brags about it. The death toll in Iraq continues to rise while Rumsfeld evokes some kind of pious indifference. We have the Bush gang trying to dig their way out of another lie about “yellow cake” and the State of the Union speech while they pray for another diversion the media can feed on.


There are growing numbers of three piece suits appearing in unemployment lines while the deficit has exploded to a record high. We have a former weapons inspector who is now conveniently “gone.” Now we have a pardoned criminal, John Poindexter, using the Department of Defense, through the T.I.A., as a kind of sick Wheel of Fortune spin-off so people can bet on terrorism. Turns out, that was a bad idea. We have also heard about Bush’s Executive Order 13303 that gives oil companies operating in Iraq broad legal immunity. And let’s not forget about the Bush gang’s practice of simply removing pages of government reports which prove their collective ineptitude and complacency when it comes to matters of global warming and 9/11.


Just how bad do things have to get before people actually wake up? How many times will the American people play the part of the sap in the jeep before they realize that something really stinks?


Every now and then some of us who have this habit of putting our anger into written words while we wander around or pace back and forth as we search for some kind of focus.


I remember a little over a year ago feeling this way when, all of a sudden, I met this woman from Sweden who reminded me that many people all over the world were listening and watching America in disbelief. Our conversation inspired me to write The Neighbors Are Whispering and I received the “jump start” I needed as well as the focus I thought I’d lost. Now, just when I thought I was stuck in yet another “funk,” the wake-up call repeats itself.


Allow me to explain.


I have a very dear friend who happens to be a single mom raising three daughters, ages 11-17, and – thanks to the latest round of compassionate conservatism – will most likely not be receiving a check this summer. She has mastered the art of “organized chaos” that so many single parents are undoubtedly familiar with when it comes to maintaining a home, so she doesn’t have the time to be up on the latest news. But something happened on my last visit to her home which shocked and inspired me.


We were sitting in the living room talking while the news was on television when her youngest daughter, Staci, spoke up. The news story was on the Iraqi resistance against the American soldiers and the mounting death toll.


“If we’re over there helping them then how come they’re shooting at us?”


I looked at my friend in disbelief and then turned to Staci. I never would have guessed that such thoughts were going through this eleven-year-old’s head. She’s a classic kid, messy room and all. I just figured she was too busy with soft ball, dance competitions and teasing her sisters to even know there was a war é er, sorry é invasion taking place. How was I going to answer this young lady without going into the usual rant which I’m prone to?


“Well, some of the people want us there but some of them don’t.”


“How come?”


“Well, it gets kind of complicated. Part of the reason is they don’t trust us.”


“Why not?”


“They don’t trust the reasons why we invaded them. Some think we just went there to get their oil.”


“So is that why we’re there?”


“Well, it would seem that that plays a big part of it.”


Now I could sense we were getting close to a subject where I am prone to going off on a rant. The last thing I wanted to do was alienate this young person and deter her from asking questions by getting up on a soapbox. I was so touched and amazed that a person of this young age was actually taking notice of the world around her. I truly did not want the conversation to stop.


“Could they kill us? Like, could they get a missile and shoot down a plane or something?”


“Who? The Iraqis?”




“No, they can’t do that. They barely even had an army before we went in there. And all the terrible weapons they were supposed to have haven’t turned up either. Maybe they will, but it doesn’t look good right now.”


“Well, could they do terrorism é like 9/11?”


“First of all, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. A lot of people don’t seem to realize that. 9/11 was committed, primarily, by people from Saudi Arabia, a country considered to be friends of the United States.”


“So how come we didn’t go and bomb them?”


“Well, that’s another one of those complications. See, Saudi Arabia is our main source of oil. It makes the most in the world. And Iraq has the potential to make almost as much.”


Staci rolled her eyes and got an exasperated look on her face. I thought that I was screwing up the conversation.


“Oil, oil, oil! Why can’t we use something different? There’s other ways to get energy, y’know.”


“Yes, but it takes money to develop those different ways. But there are too many people right now who make a lot of money from oil and they’re quite powerful and have a lot of influence.”


“What do you mean? Speak English!”


“In other words, the oil people can tell the President and the people in Congress where they want the money for energy to go.”


“But won’t we run out of oil someday?”




“Are we gonna run out in my lifetime??”


“No, not in your lifetime.”


“But we are gonna run out.”




“So then why wouldn’t we look for other things?”


“Good question.”


“Well, that’s just stupid!”


Unbeknownst to Staci, she had just hit the nail on the head. In the aftermath of a short discussion she had deduced that America was involved in a foreign country which was showing hostility towards us because we had gone there, in part, to secure a commodity that’s just going to run out someday. The same commodity which is partly responsible for our ignoring the country that produced the majority of the terrorists involved in 9/11. Granted, the road to her conclusion was a straight line without any deviance into the many other facts and nuances which have brought this country to the mess that it’s in. But even if we throw in all the other ingredients as to the disastrous situati! on we find ourselves in, both here at home and around the world, we still can step back and look at the whole mess and deduce the same thing. It is stupid! And dangerously so!


Staci and I ended the conversation long before I wanted to and, besides, she had many more questions, so I promised her I’d come back another day.


Four days later, I was sitting in their living room again and I have to admit, I was curious as to whether I’d hear the same level of intuition from this young lady as I had days ago. Plus, she also had a friend over and my four year old son was tagging along, so I wasn’t sure if she would have the same focus. Or if she’d even want to.


I was pleasantly surprised.


“How long before we win the war?”


“Can’t somebody just wave a white flag é wouldn’t that make everything stop?”


“What if we just bombed the whole country?”


“Do we even have enough people to fight all these wars?”


“Why are we even over there if they couldn’t hurt us in the first place?”


“What if we get a new president é then can we win?”


And the questions just kept coming and coming. And I did my level best not to say anything that would stifle the discussion. Not to mention, I was told more than once to “speak English” when I was doing my best to make all of this mess easy for a child to understand.


This dilemma caused a sense of envy towards the Bush gang because when they speak to the “children” who support them, all they have to do is drag out tiny little flags along with their tired old “good vs. evil” argument and lie their collective butts off and they’re all done é mission accomplished. Those of us parents who choose to raise responsible, thinking adults instead of sheep don’t have things so easy. Our children’s world has become a very complex and violent place to be and the hardest part is explaining to them that things didn’t have to be this way.


One other thing that struck me was Staci’s surprise to find out that if she were to sit down with an Iraqi girl who was her age that she’d learn that they have a lot in common – that they want the same things for themselves and their families. She’d find out that it wasn’t the Iraqi people who were angry at us é but their leaders and other people who took their hatred to heart. Just like here in America. I told her that the Iraqi girl would think she was lucky because of how big her house was and that, if she had five or ten dollars in her pocket, the Iraqi girl would think she was rich.


“THIS house?” she asked in disbelief. What a classic moment. So typical a representation of so many of us who don’t have a clue how other societies see us. Both our good points and our bad points.


But, unlike too many adults, here was a young person who wanted to ask those questions. Here was a young mind who wanted answers to questions that bothered her. Her thirst for answers about the world around her and her willingness to acknowledge that she didn’t know what was going on is an inspiration. Maybe we should all be talking to the kids.


“How long before we win?”


“Am I gonna have to go there too?”


Those were the questions that really hit me. And they were the questions which shed light on why some of our young people might care just a little bit more about the world around them than the idiotic, flag-waving Fox “News” watchers who – without question – support this president. The “patriots” who don’t realize they are the guy in the jeep with a pile of garbage all over them.


The kids are the ones who will pay for the recklessness and the blatant greed of this administration with more than just their jobs or their portfolio or their social security. They’re going to pay for it with their future. They may just have to pay for it with their lives. Because of the lies told to their parents.


And the kids are not all right with this.


Good for them. Good for Staci.


Maybe there is hope after all.

W. David Jenkins III is a political writer. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Upstate N.Y., USA.