A 9-year-old view on mass shootings, Trump and other news

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 5, 2019, 7:56 PM | comments: 0

Diana and I will typically watch the evening world news, generally NBC's 6:30 show. With a journalism education, I can't say that I always agree with how they rank things as newsworthy, but I do believe they report truthfully and have an appropriate amount of depth for a 22-minute show. Simon tends to wander in or out, and we're generally pretty careful about not letting him see anything particularly disturbing, but we instinctively didn't think we should hide the weekend's shootings from him. He has to do active shooter drills at school, and a little context seems appropriate.

The distraught family members mourning their loss seemed to upset him the most. But it's interesting to hear his angle on things that we've never really talked about. On guns: "You should only have guns to protect yourself, not murder lots of people!" He associated "big" guns with bad guys. I explained to him that it's not so much the size as what the technology enables.

"When I grow up, I want to have cameras around my house so it's secure." I felt like I had to ease his fears a little there, and explain that it's pretty rare that anyone gets shot, but especially at home.

The next story was about President Trump, and his carefully scripted speech denouncing hate crimes. Understandably, the story showed how contradictory he has been, with any number of things that he's said previously. This is an area that I've been particularly careful with, because while I think the guy is a toxic embarrassment to our nation, I don't want to diminish the seriousness and importance of the office. Again, a child's view is one that adults often willingly dismiss. "Why does anyone like him? He's so mean to everybody. He's not nice to people." That isn't the first time he's said that in response to news, and I've tried to explain to him that no other president in my lifetime has ever been like that. (I didn't tell him "from either party," because he's not going to know what that means.) The kid is no stranger to bullies or unkind people. Kids can be real dicks to each other, and he knows what that looks like.

Maybe this is partly the ASD, and his general disregard for social contracts he can't reconcile, but racism is completely over his head. I mean, I'm happy that's the case, but he can't rationalize that it even exists. Certainly that makes sense, given that he's never gone to school in or lived in a place where most everyone around him was white. I hope his generation does better than every one before it.

He has weighed in on other topics as well. Weather stories are disturbing to him, and he's asked about the frequency of tornadoes and hurricanes. The science is a little mixed on that, I told him, because there is possible correlation between location, strength and other factors, but frequency is a harder one to pin down. But there are clearer links between climate change, which is scientifically attributed to human causes, with sea level rise, drought and wildfires. He doesn't understand why gasoline cars are still a thing either, because they're "stinky." That's five years of EV-driving for him.

Simon is fond of the kicker stories in the news, which inevitably involve a person overcoming adversity, or something with pets, or anything that otherwise reminds you that human beings don't all suck. It's a relatively simple truth that we all need to be reminded of. Sometimes 9-year-olds have the best view.

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