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Opinion: Bill Walton, Do not tell the kids

'They need to know what is happening beyond the playing fields; in the so-called adult world; in politics and religion; and in life'
Fort Henry

When one reaches a certain age, has lived experience of some of the nastier things that we do to each other, or has studied and thought about life, the current war in the Middle East is something we think we can handle – disturbing as it is.

As we wait for more news and images of the conflict, we get a preface warning that some of the images and words of the events may be disturbing. Clear the room of children and those grown ups who cannot handle the pictures and reports because of PTSD or other demons.

Fair enough to shield the vulnerable from these atrocities, but I start to wonder when we say we must not expose the grade school students to these grim unpleasant facts. How will they ever appreciate what politics and religion are doing to us if they never learn of those horrors? Heaven forfend they should have to let them understand this part of life.

After the Second World War, and I realize most readers are too young and did not experience this, we had so many veterans and civilians telling us of the horrors of war that as children we knew this was not something we ever wanted to live through – and we kept that thought through our lives. We used these cautionary stories to reinforce the need for peace and getting along with each other.

And the truth was, we did not see nor hear the all details of that war for then, as now, politically and religiously, we could not handle the truth. Nor did we fully understand the enduring results of decisions made at that time. Like the borders drawn on maps (we did that after the first WW as well) creating new countries like Israel.

This was based on, partly, the reported promise by God to give the descendants (many centuries later) the land along the Mediterranean, the Levant, where some people called Palestinians / Canaanites had settled. One might suppose there was some sympathy towards the Jews after their Nazi experience. Nonetheless, this did not, and has not, sat well with the residents.

Fast forward and we have had several wars in the area and now another – this one far from settled. You might think those lived-experiences would be enough to forewarn the people living in the old ‘Levant’ area that an escalation of neighbourhood fighting was going to be horrendous.

And we in the rest of world, in those places not having their own wars, would have done something to stop our fellow human beings from this disaster. However lacking empathy for the situation and being far removed except by social media news reports, we go about our lives believing this could never happen here. Sort of like the world watching as despots like . . .  well, you know who.

And so we shield our children and ourselves from these facts of history and the current horrors in Gaza and Israel. Do not tell or show the citizens of tomorrow lest they remember and think about this. We will pause in a couple of weeks on November 11 and the image of poppies in Flanders fields will replace the images of mangled children in a hospital in Gaza or children lying dead, headless, in a field in Israel. The reality of this as illusory as the trenches in WWI.

Not to trivialize the wars in a world where people are killing each other, but the spat between a couple of our councillors might be a point worth considering. We of course do not know the details because the ‘Don’t tell the Children’ shield is in place. Only those present and perhaps the Integrity Commissioner know the full story but it does sound like a case of bullying.

Maybe the roots of the conflict go back centuries or is Biblical, but what disturbs is the commentary by others, who one must presume, do not know that facts either. Perhaps it is bullying and many of us know what that is like – some as recipients, others as bullies. But there is no place for that in a democratic system, just as there is no place for it in schools or the workplace. Those who decry the ‘waste’ of money or a lack of ‘thick skin’ for needing an integrity commissioner may need to stop for a moment and consider what kind of leaders, even in local politics, do we want representing us.

Indeed, what do we want and expect from our next generation of leaders? They are in grade school and secondary schools right now. They need to know what is happening beyond the playing fields; in the so-called adult world; in politics and religion; and in life. So please do tell the kids.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

Retired from City of North Bay in 2000. Writer, poet, columnist
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