What’s Evil, Dad?

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December 14, 2012

How can I fetch our seven year old, Atticus, at school in a few hours without imagining the slaughter today at a Connecticut elementary school? Will I scan the surroundings for danger, perhaps a sniper on the bridges overlooking his school? Should I scrutinize every adult I encounter on campus to see if they’re hiding a high-powered rifle under their coats or have a crazed look in their eyes? Or maybe I should ask some of them how my wife and I should answer his inevitable question about the mass shooting: “Why”?

The other day Atticus told Suzame that he’s one of only two kids in his second-grade class who believes in God (“not the Greek ones,” he clarified) and Santa Claus. Maybe it’s time for a family talk about good and evil — and madness, without bringing religion into the conversation. I’ll have to muzzle the cynical me and not say anything about the practical but expensive gift we could order from Santa. It’s now appropriate for the holiday season and the classroom: a bullet-proof vest for kids.

We’ll show Atticus the above cartoon and cite the number of guns in America, which he will immediately memorize and recite later. We’ll also talk about the torrent of grief and loss. So many tears in yet another river of blood.

UPDATE: Bevy of advice on how to talk with kids about the tragedy. No surprise: Mr. Rogers comes through again.

(Cartoon: Steven Greenberg, Ventura County Star, Calif., 2007)