(Hurray! After three days or so, Charter finally fixed the connection, so now I can be on-line for more than five minutes at a time!)
At View from the Right, Lawrence Auster raises the interesting subject of how to talk to your children about evil. He does it by highlighting a column by a liberal mother (The New York Times's Judith Warner) who prevaricates with her eight-year-old daughter about the trampling at the Wal-Mart store on Black Friday: "I'm not sure that they knew that they'd done it." Yeah, right.
And yet Warner is rightly concerned about her child's seeing gruesome things that don't belong in her mind--blood-spattered pictures of the Mumbai terrorist attack, for example, or (of all things) a Scholastic novel narrated by a member of the Hitler Youth.
I believe in sheltering children. I just don't think she's approaching it the right way.
The distinction that I think Warner is missing is the distinction between telling children that people are evil and showing children vivid and graphic portrayals of evil acts or their aftermath. Children should be sheltered from the latter. For that matter, I tend to be of the opinion that most of us at any age don't need a lot of vivid and graphic portrayals of evil acts floating around in our heads. But children should not be sheltered from the knowledge that there are evil people out there. They should be told that there are, unequivocally. Indeed, they should be warned to avoid them.
Children often ask why bad guys do what they do. I have discovered that "Because they are evil" is a perfectly legitimate answer. Sometimes it is the only answer and, moreover, the answer that must be given. Like most of us, children like to think that people behave rationally. In a sense, it would make them feel better if evil could be explained. But to explain evil can be to explain it away. The liberal mind is much occupied with explaining evil away--as a result of environment, society, or economics. Notice, too, how the passive verb is becoming the grammatical construction of choice in news stories describing evil acts: "Such-and-such many people were killed today..." Just like that. They "were killed." Not "Muslim terrorists killed such-and-such many people today." Judith Warner describes the Wal-Mart employee as "crushed under the weight of it all." A better statement would be, "A mob killed him by trampling him." For evil is a fact.
So by all means shelter your children from bloody and graphic violence. Don't give your little girl the novel about the Hitler Youth. And when she's a "young adult" (aka, a teenager), don't let her read gory trash. Sheltering is good. And sometimes that will mean that you will say, as I have said more than once and will doubtless say again, "I'm not going to tell you that. You don't need to know that."
But when you do answer, tell the truth. Man is evil, and he does evil because he is evil. And sometimes there is nothing more fundamental to be said.