Kids today are smart. They often know more than you think. They get information about the military industrial complex from their friends at school, from the internet, and from what they see on TV. When they come to you with questions and concerns it's a chance for you to help them process everything they're learning, and give them the kind of guidance and reassurance they need. Don't worry. You don't have to have all the answers. You just need to listen. Here are some tips:
1. Don't dodge their questions or try to give them a false sense of security. When they find out later you've been less than honest, it'll weaken the trust they have in you, and make things worse.
Child: Dad, we have a military about as big as all the other militaries combined! Are you really saying it can't protect us from some people living in caves?
You: Protecting ordinary Americans is not what the military does, son. It's there to protect the South Koreans from the North Koreans, the Japanese from the Chinese, the Poles from the Russians, and the Israelis from everybody. And make some people in Northern Virginia wealthy enough so they can retire in a country without extradition laws.
For protection, we're going to have to rely on each other. Plus that bottled water we keep in the basement. Also, we might have to eat Sparky if things go south.
2. Don't pretend you know more than you do. Older children have already figured out you're not perfect. They need to know you're there with them, trying to figure it out as well.
Child: If we spend so much money on defense we have to borrow it from the Chinese government, and they have an aggressive espionage effort to steal the technology back from us... doesn't that just mean we've turned ourselves into their Research and Development department, and then let them charge us for it and gain crippling leverage over our economy in the event of a real conflict?
You: Yeah... Well... That was pretty dumb of us, wasn't it?
3. Don't be afraid to share your feelings. Children want validation of their own fears and concerns. And knowing you feel some of the same things makes it easier.
Child: Dad, knowing we have an army of spies, soldiers, and even private contractors conducting secret wars without any supervision makes me afraid that someday, someone I don't even know will try to blow me up at a shopping mall as revenge for an atrocity I'm not aware of, because the people who did it have classified the operation to keep the truth from me, supposedly for my own benefit. And that makes me mad and scared.
You: Fucking-A right, son. It's about time you learned to start drinking.
4. Focus the conversation on what you can do together, to make things better. Even if you can't solve all the problems the military industrial complex brings into your child's life, you might be able to work on a project that makes a small difference. It will help them feel a little bit in control of their lives.
Child: Dad, whenever we go on a plane trip the TSA man gives you that hug that makes babies. Seriously, when did a great nation of millions just lose its balls? Why did we give up our freedom in exchange for an overpriced live-action GI Joe playset? Can you not even recognize a police state when it's asking you to turn and cough?
You: You got that right. Tell you what. Next time we go to the airport, let's get mom to wear her thong and put this crap on Youtube.
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