by Susan Abulhawa
March 22, 2003
Abounding!..is a glut of advice columns, school alerts, and parenting articles to help parents help their children cope with war.
My daughter brought home four letters thus far, all of them issuing “emergency procedures” and advising me on what to tell my child.
“Speak to them in terms they can understand,” says one. Parents of my daughter’s age group are to distill events into black and white terms. You know, “good vs. evil.” But those are the limits of our President’s faculties, not my five-year-old daughter’s.
Regardless, I will not lie to her. I will not tell her that sending three thousand bombs into Baghdad is a way to liberate its inhabitants. Just like I wouldn’t tell her that dropping a single bomb on Philadelphia is a way to liberate us. I will not let my daughter grow up with mind-numbing falsehoods that will make her perpetuate the incredible senselessness of our society.
“Routines and quiet time,” says one article, will help alleviate our children’s fears. I wonder what advice these experts have for Iraqi parents. Where will Iraqi children find quite from the sound of “shock and awe?” And how do they continue a routine when we’ve knocked out their phones, electricity pylons, and electrical devices with our “harmless” (a term actually used by a broadcaster) “electromagnetic” bombs?
My favorite is: “consider carefully the images your children are exposed to.” This is the mother of all advice (in keeping with the perfidious sound bites), because it betrays that this really isn’t war for us. We can carefully consider the images, then, switch the channel, can’t we?
Not that there are any images to speak of. There are no journalists inside Baghdad to report what it is really like on the ground. They’ve all left, for their “safety”, even though we’re saying that the millions of Iraqis still there are safe because we use SMART BOMBS—this, the mother of all lies!
(The United States actually warned foreign news services that if they try to uplink anything from Baghdad, they will become a target. Ask the BBC).
News stations have fixed cameras in place to record a day or two of light bombing, and broadcast the invasion as if it were a video game.
But, and they’ve already prepared us for this, the cameras will soon go dark. We’ve been given many excuses why this might happen, as if it will be an accidental occurrence rather than a carefully planned ploy to keep us all deaf blind and dumb while we shock and awe. While people fall and children scream. While we terrorize and there is no other word for it.
This truth, I will not hide from my daughter. Because I will not raise a person gullible enough to believe the infantile slogans of our media, or the words of chicken hawks and dogs of war. The words of thugs and greedy businessmen who have hijacked our Constitution and usurped international law.
When the terrible deed is done, the lights will come back on and cameras will find a group of dancing men, cheering on our soldiers. And we’ll not have to worry about talking to our children about war. And they’ll say “aha, told you so.” And the protestors will dwindle. And Iraqis will dig more graves than we can imagine, but we’ll not have to worry about that because they’re liberated. And Palestinians…those poor wretched souls…they will be murdered and expelled ever more quietly. &
But as our over-consumed population goes back to shopping for trash as usual, somewhere, littered on our sidewalks perhaps, the pages of violated treatises and conventions and international principles will stir and curl in the wind with the a rage that we’d have been better off without.
Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian living in Pennsylvania. She is the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, a non-profit organization dedicated to building playgrounds and recreation areas for Palestinian children living under military occupation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org