Those were the first words out of my daughter’s mouth last night as I came through the door. Ah, the wonders of CNN – when I got in my car to drive home, the radio was reporting that an attack was underway on Baghdad, but that the bombs and missiles hadn’t even started falling yet. By the time I arrived home forty minutes later, the news had percolated down to my seven-year old.
She looked up at me with her little face all twisted with concern and said, “Daddy, are we going to have a war?” I took her face in my hands and tried to sound reassuring, “No, honey, it’s just some more trouble on the other side of the world. It’s far away from here.”
“But I heard they were shooting cruise missiles at Iraq.”
You know, in 1815 Andrew Jackson fought and won the Battle of New Orleans – a major victory over the British – only to find out later that a peace treaty had been signed three days before the battle took place. Here he was a general and future President, leading thousands of troops, fighting (and winning) a war that was officially over, just because he hadn’t heard the news.
Yesterday we had a war (doesn’t seem like a war yet, though – more like a shootin’ match) that had begun maybe an hour ago and thanks to the wonders of the Electronic Age, my daughter was already worried about it. And not only worried, but she knew what type of technology was being used, and who it was being fired at.
During The Gulf War of 1991, my oldest was the same age as my youngest is now. He was very concerned about the war and what bad things might happen to our country. He was convinced that Iraq was somehow going to attack the United States. We reassured him that none of their weapons could reach our country (just seven years ago, but we were MUCH less concious of the possibility of terrorism), and that President Bush knew what he was doing, and the American military would win out in the end.
No matter what we told him, he remained concerned and had several bad dreams featuring Saddam Hussein. It wasn’t until after the war was over that he let on that one of his friends had told him that Iraq had nuclear submarines, and they were going to sneak into New York harbor and fire missiles at New York and New Jersey.
Looking at my daughter’s concerned face yesterday, I couldn’t help but think how difficult previous wars must have been on children this age. In World War II, there was a genuine belief that our country could be subjected to a German or Japanese attack. And it was more than likely that the child’s father, or uncle, or older brother was overseas in a life-or-death situation.
I don’t think anyone in my generation can appreciate how hard it must have been on the families of that war, or Korea, or Vietnam – how hard to say goodbye to their daddies and brothers and uncles, and know that they might never come back. The only ones who could appreciate it at all are those who sent their men and women away to the last Gulf War. But in that war (thank goodness), they almost all came back.