These are trying times, my friends.
War, famine, global warming, the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, Janet Jackson's nipple…there is no apparent end to the storm of controversy swirling about our national consciousness. Every day, we find ourselves barraged with gruesome images and horrifying tales of debauchery, and every day we all sink just a tiny bit lower into the sordid muck of our own existence.
That's why, in this topsy-turvy world we live in, it is so reassuring to know that there is still one force of nobility standing tall above all others, ready and willing to help us repel the looming mass of evil that menaces the borders of our good nation.
That force is, of course, our very own Boston Globe.
Yes, my fellow Americans, today the Boston Globe reached out to its readership yet again, taking upon itself the staggeringly important task of helping us "talk to the children" about the burning issue of the day: the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. And, unfortunately for the good citizens of Massachusetts, it has failed utterly in its mission.
The Globe warns us that children will inevitably be exposed to these disturbing images and advises parents to hide all their newspapers and keep the kids away from the TV (that loud noise you are hearing is the collective laughter of every parent who has ever tried to restrict a child's television viewing for more than half an hour at a time). Failing that, the article goes on, parents should be prepared to take immediate action if they spot their child walking his little brother around the house on a leash or stumble upon a "naked bad guy pyramid" in the family room. The Globe recommends reasonable discussion, thoughtful answers, and, in extreme cases, professional assistance to help our children make sense of the chaos and understand that these scary pictures are mere anomalies and not representative of the real America.
I say this is an excellent opportunity to begin educating the children about the important stuff: remaining true to our society's values in the face of the collective scorn of the entire world. It's high time we teach these kids that the United States of America is the Center of the Universe, and anything we do, anywhere we do it, is not only our sacred right but our holy mission. And, as one of the most shallow, self-centered, and opinionated Americans around, I consider myself ideally qualified to dispense the necessary advice. So pull up a chair, whip out your notepads, and let me tell you what's what.
Your children will probably want to know why we're having a war. Explain to them that we are fighting this war because we believe in freedom and democracy, and the best way to demonstrate this to the rest of the world is to invade a foreign country and blow up everything in sight. Reassure them that the Iraqi people are only pretending to hate us, and that they are actually very grateful that we killed and maimed so many of their neighbors, because, after all, you don't need to have all your arms and legs to appreciate freedom.
Younger children may ask how we knew which country to invade. Make this an interactive learning experience by taking them out to the garage and sitting them behind the wheel of your Range Rover. It won't take long for them to understand that it's not fair to expect Americans to have to pay extra for gas so they can drive the biggest cars in the world. Tell them about how greedy Saudi Arabia is to hog all the oil for themselves, and how Vice President Cheney's nice friends at Halliburton are helping poor Americans get good jobs rebuilding all the stuff we accidentally broke when we bombed the country. If they are still confused, sigh wearily and describe what a bad man Saddam Hussein was because he put so many innocent people into prison without letting them talk to a lawyer or have a trial. Explain to them the difference between "abuse" and "torture," and that hitting naked people, not giving them food or water, and letting big dogs bite them is only called "torture" if another country does it. When our soldiers do it, it's only called "abuse," and the whole thing is really kind of funny when you look at the pictures and see what a good time our men and women in uniform are having. Also, let your kids know that it's perfectly okay to get mad at other countries who criticize us, because they really have no reason to expect us to behave any better than the mobs on the street who killed Americans. All we need to do is keep insisting to everyone that we're the "good guys," and they'll soon simmer down and see things our way. And if they don't, well, so what? We're better than they are anyway.
If your children are more than ten years old, they will probably remember September 11th. If not, be sure to remind them how scared they were that day. As soon as they start to cry, comfort them by explaining how President Bush is protecting us now by punishing people who had nothing to do with the attacks instead of trying to catch the guys who did. Point out the fact that the bad people who tried to hurt us have, in fact, all moved to Iraq now anyway, so we were very smart to get there first and head them off at the pass. Besides, tell them it really doesn't matter who we invade, as long as they're weaker and poorer than we are, because the important thing is to prove to everyone that we're tough enough to get away with it.
No doubt, your older children have been taught in school that if they do a bad job at something they will get a bad grade or be fired. It's certainly time we dispelled that old chestnut. Show them a picture of Secretary Rumsfeld and tell them they should make him their role model, because even though he keeps making mistake after mistake, his bosses still tell everyone what a great job he is doing. Encourage them to start their own war, and if they express doubts, assure them that it's very easy and they really don't need to put a whole lot of thought into it to get the ball rolling. Acknowledge that the math part is really hard, and advise them that it's a lot easier to just leave a bunch of stuff out of their plan. Chances are, no one will notice, and they can always just ask for more money later on anyway.
The most important lesson you can teach your children is that, because they are Americans, they don't need real reasons to do anything. They can always just make them up. Explain that it really won't be lying as long as they wish really, really, really hard for something to be true. Use a hypothetical scenario to demonstrate your point. Tell them a story about a hypothetical President who invaded a hypothetical country because he really, really, really hoped that country was getting ready to attack America with hypothetical weapons, and how, when he found out he had made a terrible mistake everyone just had a good laugh about how silly he had been.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Because, after all, they were the good guys.