A video has gone viral of a father explaining to his son what will happen following the attacks on Paris.
The child explains that his family will have to leave their home, that the terrorists are very, very bad. “They have guns and they can shoot us papa.”
“But flowers don’t do anything. They are for… they are for…” says the child, struggling to express his idea.
Of course they do, says the father. Everyone is putting flowers (referring to the flowers and candles placed outside the Bataclan theatre in tribute to the victims of terror attacks on France). It’s to fight against the guns.”
“It’s to protect?” says the child.
“Exactly” answers his father.
This exchange is being lauded as a touching, heartwarming talk between a father and his son. The father, Angel Le, is obviously very kind. His gentle responses to his son’s questions are very sweet. He has received many supportive comments on Facebook about this comforting exchange.
Comforting?! I don’t find this comforting or heartwarming at all. I find it frightening.
I believe that parents have a duty, a responsibility to their children – it is their job to prepare their children to be able to live independently in the world. If this is the case there is a very big problem with this father’s lesson to his son.
As C.S. Lewis said: “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort of truth; only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”
Young as he is, this sensible boy instinctively understood the truths of the situation.
His feeling that their home will never be the same again is very correct. No, they do not need to leave their home but it will never again be like it was before.
He is right in saying that the men are “Very, very mean, they have guns and could shoot us.” The men that shot and murdered the people in France would have shot this father and son just as easily as they shot other people. The many others in France, Europe and around the world who have the same beliefs as the “mean men” would do the same as well. In a heartbeat. They aren’t after Jews or soldiers or politicians. They are after anyone who gets in the way of their ultimate goal – including this sweet father and his super-cute son.
I found it fascinating that when Angel pointed out the flowers to his son the child struggled to express his thoughts. The boy instinctively knew that flowers are good but they do not provide protection from guns.
Flowers uplift the spirt. Their beauty is a symbol of good and as such they become useful in times of trouble. They whisper to us not to despair. When all seems dark, their small perfection reminds us that there is splendor in life.
But they do not protect from guns. Or from people who want to kill you.
The truth is not pretty but it will set you free. It is only when we recognize and accept the truth, when we speak the truth can we actually deal with the truth. Turning a blind eye is dangerous. Refusing to say the words reinforces the problem. Making up nice but inaccurate stories to explain the problem away creates fertilizer, allowing the problem to grow to monstrous proportions.
“The flowers and the candles will protect us?”
“No son” the father should have said.
“The flowers and candles are our way to show respect to the people who were killed. They remind us that although there are very, very bad people in the world, we are not like them. We care about lives, even if they are people who are not related to us and were not our friends.”
“What happened was very scary for everyone but being brave doesn’t mean not being scared. It means seeing what is scary and continuing anyway. I am your father and I will always do absolutely everything I can to protect you. The government is doing everything they know how to protect all of us. We will continue living our lives exactly as we always did. We will be happy and have fun times together. Each time you do something good that fights the badness those men did. Each time you are happy that fights the sadness they caused. Do you see the police over there? It is their job to protect us from bad men with guns. There are soldiers who do help them as well. It is our job to remain good even when others are bad, and to be happy together. Can you do that?”
It would have made me proud to hear a father say that to his son.
Well-meaning people worldwide are perpetuating the problem because they are ignoring the truth, because they think that being nice will make the terror stop. Because they hide the truth from their children, and from themselves.
Parents teach their children to be careful crossing the street because if a car hits them they could die. If you don’t acknowledge the danger it is impossible to take appropriate preventive measures.
When it comes to terrorism and the growing Islamic State flowers are great but what’s really important is truth, the courage to speak it and back it up with actions. Guns help too.