Member Rara Avis
This thread is already pretty much all over the board, covering too many topics to remain focused on any one. And that's a shame, because I think the original topic is an incredibly important one.
Let's throw some stones and see how many birds we can scare (no reason to kill the birds, and my aim makes that unlikely anyway).
Ringo, yes, by your definitions, the men who actually fought the Revolutionary War were mostly drunks and farmers, especially if you allow farmers to be a metaphor for the common working man. Of course, by your definition, that's equally true of every war we've fought since, and likely true in every country in the world. Or did you manage to avoid all the bars when you were in the Corps. I sure know I didn't.
That doesn't really change or reflect on the nature of the conflict, though. In my opinion, you probably picked the one single war America has fought where just about everything, at least on the grander scale, was done for the right reasons. Even a benevolent dictatorship is still a dictatorship. If I had to count the great thinkers of history on just one hand, I'm almost certain I would have to reserve a finger for Thomas Jefferson. To the best of my knowledge, there has never, before or since, been a "revolution" that was first fought with the weapon of due process. Even the Declaration of Independence was contrived as a legal document that, had it been honored as such, would have eliminated the need for war.
You certainly could have picked better examples. Look up the Philippine-American war of 1899, for example. The Balangiga Massacre isn't something typically taught in High School history even when we did teach history. Your point is valid, I think, even if your example is not. American can be viscous little critters, a truth I learned first-hand in 1969. But maybe we should change the subject of that sentence to Humans?
Kacy, I think your concerns about inaccuracy or blatant dishonesty in the news media are largely unfounded. The Fourth Estate is a marvelously effective, self-regulating institution where lies are inevitably discovered and severely punished with a corresponding loss of credibility. There is far too much competition for any widespread conspiracy to survive, and you can be sure that if the Post prints a lie on Monday, the Times will be all over them by Tuesday. Blatant dishonestly, if it exists at all, would have to start and be maintained at a much higher level. And Nixon already discovered how well that would work.
That is NOT, however, to suggest that our news isn't slanted. It is.
The lies are not in what they show us, I think, but perhaps in what they don't show us. That's why it's so important, for anyone who really cares, to read widely. You are always getting someone else's viewpoint, and the only way to counter that is to get a whole lot of someone else's viewpoints. One of the greatest things about the Internet is that we now have international news coverage more easily available.
As to interpreting the Why? behind current events, as well as historical events, I think the greatest tool we have is good literature. Read Shakespeare, Melville, Dickens, and all the other great chroniclers of human nature. These writers are great not just because they could turn a pretty phrase, but because the stories they told revealed important truths about humanity. We haven't changed a whole lot in the past thousand years, and our world is still full of obsessive Ahabs and tragically confused Romeos.
Let's talk about desensitization.
Anyone who has lived through a truly horrific time in their life knows that desensitization is both a normal part of human nature and, perhaps, an absolutely vital part of it. I don't think it's possible to cry every waking moment, and I suspect, were it possible, it would surely lead to despair and maybe to insanity. To survive horror, we refuse to acknowledge its effect on us. We build a fence around the horror, call it normal, and somehow learn to live within its shadow.
However, as vital as this process is to our survival, like everything else in life, desensitization carries a price. It is one side of a two-sided coin, and we can ONLY see one side at a time. Turn over the desensitization, and on the other side you will find Empathy.
Those who empathize with the victims of horror cannot escape the horror. Only by turning over the coin, by burying our ability to empathize, can we fence off the horror and call it normal. That's a high price to pay for anyone. For a teen, a young person still shaping their life, I think the price may be too high. There is a very real danger that as they shape their life with the one side of the coin facing up, they will forget the other side ever existed. I've known grown men who, after just a year of intense desensitization in an Asian jungle, never learned to again adapt to a life of normalcy. They had fenced in the horror so completely they found themselves trapped on the wrong side of the fence. They never learned how to truly feel again.
It sounds terribly cruel to intentionally inflict emotional pain on our own kids, but I think that sometimes that's exactly what we need to do. We need to help them see -- help them FEEL -- the human stories behind the tragedy. We have to cut a path through the fence they are building, not too small, not too big, so they can experience their own sense of empathy. The ability to cry for others, not just ourselves, is too important to risk loosing. Especially in our kids.
How do we accomplish this?
First, I think it's important that we allow ourselves to both feel and express our own pain. Our children can learn only what they see.
Second, I think we need to encourage our children's empathy with stories. Those can take the form of personal conversation, especially conversation sprinkled with questions. "What would you say to someone who called you on a cell phone, scared and trapped and looking for comfort?" Something to move them closer to the human story unfolding. It's a dangerous line to walk, and I honestly don't know where the line is any better than I suspect you do. We don't want to frighten our kids beyond their ability to cope. We don't want to scar them for life. We don't want to feel like lousy parents. But neither should we try to protect them from their own ability to feel.
The stories, I think, can also take the more traditional forms. Fiction and poetry, even completely unrelated to the horrors surrounding our kids, can help them learn to feel for other people. A good writer not only relies on reader empathy, they know every trick and nuance to bring it to the fore. At no other time in history has reading been more important to our young than it is right now. For the span of a few hundred pages, your teen will learn to see their world through another's eyes. They will feel the pain, the triumph, the frustration of another. It might be the only time it is completely safe for them to feel.
How do we encourage our kids to read?
Once again, kids can only learn what they see. If you want your kids to read "A Tale of Two Cities" (as you should), then they should see you reading it. It sure doesn't hurt, either, if you tell them a little of what you're reading, engage them in conversation about the feelings and thoughts the story engenders for you. Raise their curiosity, and soon they'll be bugging you to hurry so they can have their turn. Pick a book that is both at their level and has the depth to be more than just an adventure. I've long since forgotten how old I was at the time, but I still remember the first novel I read as a child. Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie, made me cry and probably changed my life.
I also think we should encourage our kids to write. Big surprise there, right?
Statistically, reading and writing really DO go together. Not every voracious reader will admit it, but studies suggest anyone who reads a lot also writes and very probably learned their love of reading from their appreciation of writing. Let me say that again. Writing typically precedes reading. I know that's not the way they teach it in schools, but trust me, it works. Teach a kid to express themselves in fiction or poetry, and they WILL learn to love reading. And until they write, reading will just be something they have to do in school.
I hope it goes without saying, Kacy, that my comments in this thread aren't directed specifically at you or your daughter. I'm not saying she's in danger, because I really don't know her. I'm certainly not suggesting you haven't already taught her to love reading or that you don't talk to her about your own feelings. What I've said isn't so much "to" you as it is because of you. You just opened a can of worms I've been carrying around for a few years.
Desensitization, especially in our kids, is the single greatest danger we face in this mass communication world of ours. We see too much horror. We must all somehow learn to cope with that, of course. But not at the cost of our humanity.