Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Paying Attention

This evening while we were eating dinner, with the television news speaking softly in the next room about a pastor who wants to publicly burn a sacred text, my six-year-old son said to me, suddenly:

"Hey, remember a while ago on The Daily Show when they were talking about that mosque in New York, and they made the Bank of America logo change to Death to America, and they turned Burger King into Burger Sheik, and Church Street into Mosque Street? That was sooo funny."

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Municipal Land-Use Update - Ground Zero Mosque
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

And in the space of about three seconds, these are the thoughts that flew through my head:

Wait. My kid was paying attention to that news about people burning a religious text? At dinner? Crud.

Wait. My kid actually pays attention to The Daily Show reruns I sometimes watch while the he is supposedly distracted by homework or video games? The reruns he always complains about us watching when, according to him it would be "more educational" to watch Mythbusters?

How much attention is he paying to, um, er, all those penis jokes they tell on TDS? Um. Hmm. Erm. Note to self.

Wait. My six-year-old has been paying so much attention to the news in general that he not only knows enough about the supposed "Ground Zero Mosque"* to have correctly interpreted that Daily Show segment as pertaining to it, but also knew immediately to associate the furor over the Islamic community center with Dove World Outreach's Quran-burning publicity stunt?

WAIT! I haven't even really talked to him about the Park 51 Islamic Community Center in New York yet, or about Pastor Crazypants' planned burning of the Quran. I haven't talked about how when the Founders put freedom of religion in the American Constitution, they did in fact mean all religions not just Christian ones. I haven't explained to him how wrong I think it is that some people in this country are persecuting all Muslims because of the actions of a deranged few. I haven't told him about all the moderate American Muslims I went to high school and college with, who were just as appalled by 9/11 as any other sane human being, and who yet live even now with harassment and profiling. I haven't talked to him about how fear and pain and loss can sometimes cause even good-hearted people to make bad decisions and hurt their neighbors.  I haven't explained well enough, have I, about people sometimes being afraid of people who are different from they are, just because of the difference? I haven't had a real discussion with him yet about how politicians and members of the media sometimes purposefully stoke public fear and anger in order to gain attention and power, and how that seems to me to be happening now every time someone brings up any news story remotely involving Islam.

Agh! I am totally unprepared for this discussion!

I mean, he's six.

And then the six-year-old said, "People think that mosque is at Ground Zero, but it's two blocks away." He shook his head.

"Oh," I said, "You've really been paying attention to the news, huh?"

"Yeah," he said. "People should pay attention. So they know what is true."

And he went back to his dinner.

*Park 51 is, for the record, folks, NOT at ground zero, or, in fact, even technically a mosque — it's an Islamic community center. Plans include a basketball court and space for cooking classes as well as a small prayer room. Thank you very little, 24 hour cable news, for your clarity on this issue!