Actress and autism activist Holly Robinson Peete posed a thought provoking comment via Twitter in the midst of all the hoopla over Osama Bin Laden’s death. She wrote, “little ones asking who Osama Bin Laden is and why is everyone happy he’s dead.” It’s something that came up in my own household and probably was echoed in homes from here to there and probably everywhere, with kids too young to know the whole back story, too young to know of Bin Laden, 9-11, and the meaning of terrorism.
As much as we try to protect and guard our children from the news, when something is this big, they often get wind of it. And then the questions start. And the biggest story and question of the day? Why is everyone so happy that someone else is dead?
Children are taught that murder is a horrendous act. That killing is bad. And that human life is sacred – no matter if you are religious or not. Death is something to be sad about. But this death, the death of Osama Bin Laden? Adults everyone are cheering for his demise – smiling, hooting, and hollering. This goes against everything we’ve taught them, that taking someone else’s life is never a positive thing. This may send a very confusing message to kids. Why – in every other scenario – is death and killing sad and bad, but in this case death is happy and everyone is celebrating?
There are have been few instances where this scenario has happened, when a leaders death has been cause for celebration. On a smaller scale there was Saddam Huseein back in 2006. And then there was the death of Adolf Hitler, but that was 65 years ago. This kind of thing is a rare event, but for those of us with young kids, it’s something we are addressing today. So how do you go about explaining this, something that on the surface that seems completely hypocritical?
In our home, the news broke right when our 5-year-old daughter was going to bed. She heard the TV and came into the front room. She did not get the whole ‘happy because someone was dead’ thing at all. We told her that Osama Bin Laden was a bad man and did very bad things. She asked if he was a super villain. We said, “sure, you can call him that.” She then asked who killed him. We told him that President Obama sent people to find him to make sure he didn’t hurt anyone else. Her reply? “So Obama is a super hero?” Yup, the epic drama as explained in terms that a 5-year-old can understand – super villain vs. super hero.
Obama himself said that “justice has been done.” But is an eye for an eye a message we want to send to our kids? Some see the assassination as vengeance not just justice. And vengeance is never a healthy message.
Did you explain the situation to your kids? If so, how did you explain it?
Photo: Flickr Pashtun Pride