Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tough Explanations

Weekend before last was a Jewish holiday called Purim. Purim has evolved into a party holiday - adults are encouraged to drink and children wear costumes and get candy. The story behind Purim, like many Jewish holidays is simply "They tried to kill us, they failed. Let's eat."

In the case of Purim, the merriment thinly conceals real terror. Consider this popular Purim song which begins:
Oh, once there was a wicked, wicked man
And Hamen was his name sir,
He would have murdered all the Jews,
Though they were not to blame sir
and ends
The guest of honor he shall be
This clever Mr. Smarty.
And high above us he shall swing,
At a little hanging party.
Adults come to terms with this dichotomy. But this is a holiday for little kids. How do you explain mass murder to a three year old? This comes up frequently in other contexts. My kids see the front page of the newspaper, graced by Zarqawi or Zawahiri (al-Qaeda, brought to you by the letter Z) or the monster of the moment and my daughter says, "He's not nice."

"That's right," I tell her, "He has issues."

So on Purim my daughter tells me, "Haman has issues."

When my son and I discuss the Battle of Trafalgar (I am raising him to be a Trivial Pursuit champion) I quiz, "Why did Horatio Nelson have to stop Napoleon from taking over Europe?"

"Because Napoleon had issues."

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