“Are you asleep?” he asked softly from my bedroom door.
“No,” I lied. Even though he could see I was, and I knew he knew I was. He wouldn’t be asking if he didn’t need me to be awake.
He came into my room, sat on my bed. “The news says we bombed Syria. Is that true?”
“Yes,” I said. I’d heard the news, and had gone to sleep early to escape it. It made me afraid, and I’d thought of reaching out to people to allay my fears. But no one had responded to texts, so sleep was the next best thing. I was sure the kids wouldn’t hear until the next day, and I wanted them to have one more night before hearing the news of the first military involvement with which they’d have to grapple as politically-aware people.
Now here was my fifteen-year-old. He’s somehow heard the news online.
“What does it mean?” he asked.
“It means that they did something bad, gassed their own people, and we took out the airfield from which those planes took off.” I wanted to project strength and certainty to him, and not stoke his fears. It was difficult to be supportive of an administration I find appalling, which was probably illegitimately installed, but was making decisions that would impact all of us. This was the thing we’d been afraid of, when we were protesting the Russian involvement and the shady practices… how would we answer these questions, about why our government has done something in our name?
“So we just bomb people?” he asked.
Deep breath. I was definitely no longer asleep. This is a tougher one for me, because, as a pacifist, I don’t believe armed conflict is ever the first resort. Here they are, not even 100 days into the term, and they’re dropping bombs… why? To look tough? To distract from the expanding evidence of Russian intrusion into our election? If war is never the answer, it is even less so for this president, with his historically low approval ratings and his lack of buy-in from vast swaths of the electorate. But it wouldn’t help him if I added to his uncertainty. I see my role as mother to make them feel safe, like their world makes sense. This job has gotten considerably harder in the last few months.
I did my best to answer the question, a mix of “no, we don’t just bomb people,” and “yes, this may be a distraction.” He made an uneasy joke about the draft. In just over two years, he will be eligible. The thought of that rends me in ways I can’t fully describe.
These are the deadly stakes with which we’re playing. Lives. Treasure. Safety. Truth. Yes, elections have consequences, the those of the 2016 election spread out in inky ripples on an uncertain sea. I pray, unsure to whom, for peace, for leadership that doesn’t terrify me and endanger my family. I pray to exhale, to relax. I pray for the right words to make young people feel at ease, hopeful about their world. I pray.