Jewish World Review April 7, 2003 / 5 Nisan, 5763
Explaining the war to a six-year-old
My beloved Caleb,
When you were six months old, I thought you were about as terrific as any child could be and found myself wishing you
could stay that age forever. I was resigned to the fact that as you grew older, you would inevitably become a little less
appealing and a little more aggravating.
But it hasn't worked out that way. Even though you're a big boy now -- six years old -- you're still the most terrific
child I know. Oh, sure, you can be exasperating at times: Mama and I were ready to tear our hair out, for example, when
for seven straight weeks of swimming lessons last summer, you refused to even get in the water. Like every child, you
occasionally misbehave, or speak disrespectfully, or throw a minor fit when you don't get your way. But on the whole,
you're a joy to be with -- cheerful, bright, enthusiastic.
And funny, too. You told me a few months ago that you plan to live in our house even after you get married. "Where
will you sleep?" I asked. "In my room," you answered. "And where will your wife sleep?" "In the top bunk."
These days, Caleb, I often marvel at how grown you seem. The chubby toddler I remember has given way to a lean
young fellow with a competitive streak and a mind of his own. When I took you and Mama to the airport in February for
your trip to Disneyworld with Grandma Weller, I watched you stride into the terminal, suitcase in hand, and was struck by
what a seasoned little traveler you'd become.
Yet in other ways, you're still so innocent: When you packed that suitcase for the trip to Florida, the first thing that went
in was your favorite stuffed animal -- Peter Rabbit.
I'm in no hurry to dispel your innocence, but I know that the world outside won't stay outside forever. My power to
shelter you from the worst of what's out there is gradually decreasing; your awareness of human evil and suffering are
slowly on the rise. I want to prepare you for the ugliness and injustice that you are bound to encounter as you make your
way in the world -- prepare you not just to recognize that such things exist but to understand that you have a duty to
We talked about the war in Iraq the other day. I explained to you that the ruler of that country is an extremely cruel
man who for a very long time has been killing and hurting many people -- including even children your age and younger --
and that the United States was now leading a war to stop him. War can be very terrible and frightening, I told you, but it
would be more terrible and frightening if we did nothing to stop the cruel man.
"Imagine how you would feel," I suggested, "if somebody were hurting you very badly -- hurting you so badly that you
were crying -- and everyone else just watched and did nothing to stop him." That is a very simple way to frame the case
for war in Iraq, Caleb, but you'd be surprised how many adults cannot seem to grasp it.
Fortunately, the idea that the persecution of innocents demands a response is one with which you are already familiar.
In kindergarten right now, you and your classmates are preparing for Passover. You are learning about the bitter
enslavement of the Israelites and the cruelty of the Egyptians, and about the great leader named Moses, who refused to
look the other way when he came across acts of injustice. Once again you are hearing the story of Shifra and Puah, the
Hebrew midwives who bravely defied Pharaoh's command to drown every newborn Hebrew boy.
The lesson I hope you are gradually internalizing is that when victims are suffering, those who can rescue them have an
obligation to do so. "Do not stand aloof from the blood of your neighbor," commands the Bible in Leviticus 19:16. When
someone is in a desperate predicament, you must help if you can. And sometimes the only way to help is through fighting
and bloodshed. Awful as war is, the alternative can be even worse.
The truth is, Caleb, if it weren't for war, you would not exist. In the spring of 1945, your father's father was near death
in a Nazi concentration camp; he survived and was liberated thanks to the bombs and bullets of the Allies, who managed
to destroy Hitler before Hitler managed to destroy every last Jew in Europe. Men with guns saved your family from
extinction. Never forget that.
In a few days we'll be sitting down to the Passover seder, and I look forward to hearing you explain the meaning of the
ancient rituals. We eat bitter herbs, you'll tell me, to recall the bitter bondage of our ancestors. We dip a vegetable in salt
water to remind ourselves of their tears. We eat dry, unleavened matza, because it was the bread of their affliction.
We live today in freedom and comfort, but there are so many in this world who know only bondage and tears. Don't
close your eyes and ears to them, Caleb. Train yourself to care about those who are being hurt. And never forget: Evil
men triumph when good men do nothing.
All my love,
Like this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.
03/31/03: Empowering a terroristocracy in the name of 'peace'?
03/27/03: America the liberator
03/10/03: THE UNITED NATIONS, RIP
03/10/03: Changing the definition of marriage
03/07/03: Liberate Iraq -- even with unclean hands
03/03/03: Why talk radio tilts right
02/21/03: A boost for Saddam
02/10/03: On outing Kerry
02/06/03: The neverending voyage
02/03/03: This hasn't been a 'rush to war'
01/31/03: Killing the terror regimes
01/29/03: How not to win the war
01/24/03: The UN's moral irrelevance
01/22/03: Musings, random and otherwise
01/17/03: The Sharpton hypocrisy
01/13/03: The fig leaf of 'diversity'
01/10/03: Israeli restraint makes terrorism more likely
01/02/03: The double standard on political hate speech
12/30/02: Good for the spirit, good for the body
12/23/02: The college president who owes a greater duty to a fugitive serial killer than the public or to the law
12/20/02: The death penalty by the numbers
12/16/02: Yes, Virginia, there is (still) a liberal media bias
12/03/02: On the brink of regime change --- in Iran
11/27/02: Light's victory over darkness
11/25/02: A 'Republican' lesson from a Democratic convention
11/22/02: The slippery senator
11/18/02: The campus 'diversity' fraud
11/14/02: MURDER AT A KIBBUTZ
11/01/02: Saddam's shop of horrors
10/24/02: Musings, random and otherwise
10/17/02: Jimma's ignoble prize
10/14/02: New Jersey's bigot laureate
10/11/02: Today it is libs who are most likely to demand the silencing of speech they disapprove of
10/04/02: Learning English from Day 1
09/30/02: The world will follow us to war
09/27/02: The face of antisemitism
09/20/02: Starving time in Zimbabwe
09/14/02: Against moral confusion / 9-12-2002
09/03/02: With 'eternal friends' like these
08/30/02: Enriching survivors was a costly mistake
08/26/02: John Kerry's absent passion
08/23/02: Bonnie, get your gun
08/19/02: A screenwriter's remorse
07/29/02: The real abortion extremists
07/26/02: Another round of Kemp-Roth
07/19/02: Jews among Arabs, Arabs among Jews
07/15/02: Musings, random and otherwise
07/12/02: The new civil rights champions
07/03/02: Riding the rails
07/01/02: The prerequisite to peace
06/24/02: Frisking AlGore
06/17/02: Offense, not defense, is the key to homeland security
06/14/02: Looking at the horror
06/07/02: The cost of a death-penalty moratorium
06/03/02: Executing 'children,' and other death-penalty myths
05/29/02: A real threat?
05/24/02: The message in Arafat's headdress
05/20/02: (Mis)playing the popularity card
05/10/02: Outspoken, Muslim -- and moderate
05/10/02: The heroes in Castro's jails
05/06/02: The disappearing history term paper
05/03/02: Musings, random and otherwise
04/29/02: The canary in Europe's mine
04/15/02: Powell's crazy mission
04/12/02: The slavery reparations hustle
04/08/02: Peace at any price = war
03/26/02: Decency matters most, Caleb
03/22/02: The U.S. embargo and Cuba's future
03/19/02: The keepers of Cuba's conscience
03/15/02: A walk in Havana
02/26/02: Buchanan's lament
02/12/02: What 'peace' means to Arafat
02/08/02: STEVEN EMERSON AND THE NPR BLACKLIST
02/05/02: Antismoking: Who pays?
02/01/02: Turn the Saudis
01/25/02: Making MLK cry
01/21/02: Ted to tax cut: Drop dead
01/18/02: Musings random and otherwise
01/14/02: An ultimatum to Saudi Arabia
01/11/02: Friendship, Saudi-style
01/07/02: Shakedown at Harvard
01/04/02: More guns, more safety
01/02/02: Smears and slanders from the Left
12/28/01: Congress gives to others -- and itself
12/24/01: The littlest peacemakers
12/20/01: How to condemn terror
12/18/01: Greenland once was
12/14/01: Parents who never said ''no''
12/11/01: Wit and (economic) wisdom
12/07/01: THE PALESTINIANS' MYTH
12/04/01: The war against Israel goes on
11/30/01: Tribunals, motorcycles -- and freedom
11/19/01: Friendship and the House of Saud
11/12/01: The Justice Department's unjust monopoly
11/09/01: Muslim, but not extremist
11/02/01: Too good for Oprah
10/29/01: Journalism and the 'neutrality fetish'
10/26/01: Derail these subsidies
10/22/01: Good and evil in the New York Times
10/15/01: Rush Limbaugh's ear
10/08/01: With allies like these
10/01/01: An unpardonable act
09/28/01: THE CENSORS ARE COMING! THE CENSORS ARE COMING!
09/25/01: Speaking out against terror
09/21/01: What the terrorists saw
09/17/01: Calling evil by its name
09/13/01: Our enemies mean what they say
09/04/01: The real bigots
08/31/01: Shrugging at genocide
08/28/01: Big Brother's privacy -- or ours?
08/24/01: The mufti's message of hate
08/21/01: Remembering the 'Wall of Shame'
08/16/01: If I were the editor ...
08/14/01: If I were the Transportation Czar ...
08/10/01: Import quotas 'steel' from us all
08/07/01: Is gay "marriage" a threat?
08/03/01: A colorblind nominee
07/27/01: Eminent-domain tortures
07/24/01: On protecting the flag ... and drivers ... and immigrants
07/20/01: Dying for better mileage
07/17/01: Why Americans would rather drive
07/13/01: Do these cabbies look like bigots?
07/10/01: 'Defeated in the bedroom'
07/06/01: Who's white? Who's Hispanic? Who cares?
07/02/01: Big(oted) man on campus
06/29/01: Still appeasing China's dictators
06/21/01: Cuban liberty: A test for Bush
06/19/01: The feeble 'arguments' against capital punishment
06/12/01: What energy crisis?
06/08/01: A jewel in the crown of self-government
05/31/01: The settlement myth
05/25/01: An award JFK would have liked
05/22/01: No Internet taxes? No problem
05/18/01: Heather has five mommies (and a daddy)
05/15/01: An execution, not a lynching
05/11/01: Losing the common tongue
05/08/01: Olympics 2008: Say no to Beijing
05/04/01: Do welfare mothers a kindness: Make them work
05/01/01: Another man's child
04/24/01: Sharon should have said no
04/02/01: The Inhumane Society
03/30/01: To have a friend, Caleb, be a friend
03/27/01: Is Chief Wahoo racist?
03/22/01: Ending the Clinton appeasement
03/20/01: They're coming for you
03/16/01: Kennedy v. Kennedy
03/13/01: We should see McVeigh die
03/09/01: The Taliban's wrecking job
03/07/01: The No. 1 reason to cut taxes
03/02/01: A Harvard candidate's silence on free speech
02/27/01: A lesson from Birmingham jail
02/20/01: How Jimmy Carter got his good name back
02/15/01: Cashing in on the presidency
02/09/01: The debt for slavery -- and for freedom
02/06/01: The reparations calculation
02/01/01: The freedom not to say 'amen'
01/29/01: Chavez's 'hypocrisy': Take a closer look
01/26/01: Good-bye, good riddance
01/23/01: When everything changed (mostly for the better)
01/19/01: The real zealots
01/16/01: Pardon Clinton?
01/11/01: The fanaticism of Linda Chavez
01/09/01: When Jerusalem was divided
01/05/01 THEY NEVER FORGOT THEE, O JERUSALEM
12/29/00 Liberal hate speech, 2000
12/15/00Does the Constitution expect poor children be condemned to lousy government schools?
12/08/00 Powell is wrong man to run State Department
12/05/00 The 'MCAS' teens give each other
12/01/00 Turning his back on the Vietnamese -- again
11/23/00 Why were the Pilgrims thankful?
11/21/00 The fruit of this 'peace process' is war
11/13/00 Unleashing the lawyers
11/17/00 Gore's mark on history
40 reasons to say NO to Gore
© 2002, Boston Globe