An Introduction to Terror

“I want to show you something,” I said. “It’s not a kid thing.”

The boys were in their pajamas and whatever they were watching was full of smiles and hugs and had been sanitized for their protection. I turned on CNN and started a conversation that I had long avoided. Their eyes were on the screen behind me and they widened as they took in images that they couldn’t comprehend — images that have haunted the rest of us for nearly ten years.

“I’m showing this to you because this is history, and someday you may want to remember where you were when it happened. Assuming you want to remember it at all. I want you to know what is happening.”

And then I started to justify actions to my children that went against all of the words I had ever told them.

I explained to them that a man was dead and that he deserved it. I compared him to the villains from their storybooks. I compared him to Hitler. I told them that he had done evil things for evil reasons and that his death was a means to help end those deeds.

I said that many people would feel a sense of relief. That many people would feel a sense of joy.  I explained the concept of closure.

Hanging in the air was an unspoken thought, a quote from The Iron Giant that had been repeated often in our home, usually by me:

It is bad to kill, but it is not bad to die.

I could say that and I could believe it, because I knew how to make exceptions to the rule. I left that part out. I also left out the part about how many of the people they know and trust would have killed this same man with their own hands had the opportunity presented itself. I left out that I may be one of them.

“Why are the people singing?” asked my oldest son long after his brother had gone to bed.

I didn’t answer him. I saw what the people were doing. On some level I understood it. However, the death of one evil man in a world of evil men did not inflate my patriotic pride with song, rather it emphasized my silence. I thought of the losses our country has suffered over the past ten years, the lives, time and money that have been wasted. It reminded me that things are far from over.

“I know why they sing,” he said. And then he fell against my lap, first quiet, then asleep.  The TV stayed on for hours. Their song carried on the night like a lullaby.

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