IRREGULAR TIMESTalking, Walking, and Waving Flags

By J. Lynn

I listen to a lot of National Public Radio. We live in the country, and our television reception is bad.

Last week I listened to a show on NPR on which a child psychologist was asked how to explain the war in Iraq to children. I am a parent, so I listened closely.

This child psychologist has an eight-year-old daughter who asked him why there is a war going on. He said that she asked him "Why can't they just talk it out?"

Of course. That's what many of us teach our children, isn't it? Talk it out. Don't hit. Don't bite. Don't name call. Talk it out.

I imagined the NPR audience: many parents who, like me, turned up the volume on their radio at this point in the interview, not wanting to miss what would surely be some words of clarity from this expert.

The child psychologist told his daughter that President Bush thought the time for talking was over with, and that's why we are at war.

This made me very angry.

Then I remembered a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Scout, a young girl, is getting into fights with other children at school because her father, Atticus, is defending a black man, Tom Robinson, on a murder charge. The kids at school call Atticus a "nigger lover," which Scout doesn't understand, but senses is a very serious insult.

Scout asks her father why he is doing what he's doing. She asks for some kind of explanation. Atticus tells her that if he didn't do what he is doing by defending Mr. Robinson, he wouldn't be able to tell her or her brother Jem what to do anymore. In other words, Atticus is walking the hard walk of the talk he talks to his children.

I was an inner-city school teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, when the tragedy at Columbine happened. Of course, there were other school shootings in the country during my short career as a teacher, but Columbine is really the one that sticks out in my mind. As the words of the child psychologist echoed in my head this week, I wondered, did the time for talking also run out for those armed kids? Was there ever a time for talking? Where was their voice?

Because that's what many parents want to believe we're teaching our kids, isn't it? Talk it out. Don't threaten people. Don't take a gun to school. Don't murder people. Talk it out.

After explaining why he is defending Tom Robinson, Atticus forbids Scout to fight anymore at school, much to her protestation, even if his honor is in question. He knows the talking out will be in a court of law. Later in the story, when Tom Robinson is given a guilty verdict, Atticus begins the work on an appeal. Another opportunity to talk it out.

My son is only two-years-old. He does not ask me the hard questions yet. But when he does, I hope I am as brave as Atticus is. I hope I am able to walk the hard walk with the same steady conviction I talk the talk.

Until then, I will continue to respect the lives of the troops--ALL troops--and civilians involved in this tragedy by continuing to actively and loudly oppose this shameful, shameful war.

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