two seemingly unrelated conversations

Aelgifu is eleven years old. I am twenty-three.

A couple of weeks ago, I was helping Aelgifu study for her social studies test on Wilson's 14-part plan by making up silly mnemonics, while checking Wikipedia for background and clarification on what each point means. The difference between the Geneva Conventions and the Geneva Protocol comes up.

"The Geneva Convention? It's a set of agreements that a whole bunch of countries made about how to treat prisoners of war. Stuff like don't torture them."

"Does anyone actually torture people?"

I have to think about what I'm going to say here.

"... well... we do."

"We DO?"

"Um... yes. There's been a few cases lately where American soldiers have abused Iraqi prisoners or people they think are terrorists, like in a place called Abu Ghraib." I look up the Wikipedia article and opt not to show her the pictures, so I explain waterboarding as an example of what goes on.

"But how can they do that if we're not supposed to torture people?"

"Well, sometimes we get around it by saying that those people aren't really prisoners of war, they're detainees or enemy combatants instead."

Aelgifu makes a face.

"That, and there's a lot of people who say that things like waterboarding aren't really torture, so it's okay to do them."

Aelgifu kind of rolls her eyes here, since it's hard to describe waterboarding and not have it come across as something very, very mean.

"Yeah, I know. I think it's a little silly. That, or a lot of people think it's okay to torture if you do it to a terrorist. I... disagree, because I think that torture is wrong no matter who you do it to, and you know, you shouldn't lower yourself to that level, but a lot of people kind of like the idea of... revenge, I guess."

"But... that's WRONG."

"...Yeah, I agree. There's also something Congress passed where President Bush can... um, well, pretty much declare anyone he doesn't like to be an "enemy combatant," and that means they no longer have any right to things like due process or habeas corpus. Remember those?"


"Fourth amendment? And Fifth?"

"Oh yeah! Um... a speedy and public trial, with a jury, and they have to tell you what you're charged with!" We previously did the mnemonic thing with the Bill of Rights, obviously. "He can just do it for no reason?"

"Well, he's not supposed to, but he doesn't really have to have any hard evidence, he just has to suspect them of being a terrorist or a traitor or something. Like, technically, he could point to me, and say 'You are an ENEMY COMBATANT because you say mean things about me, and that helps the enemy!' and there's nothing I can really do about it. There's this guy named Jose Padilla..." Again, looking up the Wikipedia article on him. "President Bush thought he might be a terrorist, so they put him in a military prison, and then they kept him there for a really long time... um, it says three years... without telling his family where he was or what he was being accused of. And he might have been tortured too."

"They didn't even tell his FAMILY where he WAS? For THREE YEARS?"


"Or why they were putting him in jail?"

"Doesn't look like it."

"Why'd they think he was a terrorist? WAS he a terrorist?"

"Um, lemme look it up." Wikipedia! "Um, looks like he hung around with someone that had Al Qaeda connections and stuff like that, basically. Nothing on him specifically."

"Oh. That's it?"

"It doesn't say much more than that, I'd have to go looking for it. They might have had something else I don't know about."

"Couldn't he get a lawyer?"

"Not really, no. That's one of the rights he lost with all the due process stuff."

"How's he going to defend himself, then?"

"... well... he can't, really."

Aelgifu looks properly horrified, so I put in a point here. "Okay, I should point out here that all this is what I think, and Mom and Dad disagree with pretty much all of it and they'd be telling you something very different. And I'm not telling you any of this because I want to make you believe something, I want you to go look it up for yourself and make up your own mind. Make sense?"



At some point we return to Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations.


Today, Aelgifu wanted me to read her a bedtime story. (This is mainly an excuse to delay having to go to sleep and leave me alone, but hey. Quality time and all that.)

"So do you have a book?"

"Yeah, it's right over there."

I look. "... um... this one?" Please, for the love of sanity, tell me there's another book around here.


"... do I have to?"

Aelgifu shrugs. She's aware that I have issues with Left Behind.

Sigh. "Aelgifu, I'm going to be honest, I think these books are complete crap. Can we please read something else?"


"They're... just... I think they're really badly written." And badly theologized, if that's a word, and totally devoid of redeeming value under any measure not involving recycling the paper it's printed on. To put it mildly. There's no really easy way to go into the psychotic horror that is premillennial dispensationalism with a fifth-grader who got the books from her mother.

"I like them..."

"I'm not saying you can't, but... just... can we read something else? Please?"

"I don't really have anything else I haven't read..." We look. "What about THIS one?" She pulls out the second book in the series. I give her the stinkeye, and she giggles.

We end up reading five pages of a book which according to the cover will be about a heroic mastiff named Thunder.

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thus saith Liadan at 11:26 PM


Blogger titration saith at 2/13/2008 10:16 PM...  

Wow I don't know why it took me so long to notice you had a new post... rss reading and all alerts but woo hoo. Glad to read you again. And I might add if I had a little sister I'd probably have the exact same convo with her.

Also thanks for the comment on comic books. I was hoping you would pop your head in since I get the feeling you would know about them. :)

Blogger Fever Dog saith at 2/14/2008 2:34 AM...  

Even if your parents would tell Aelgifu (btw your pseudonym slipped closer to the end) something different about the use of torture and the role of enemy combatants, I don't really think they could make it sound reasonable without being too emotive. While you have your own position, you managed to explain it quite simply and reasonably.

As for 'Left Behind' worries me that she would be so keen on the books.

Blogger Liadan saith at 2/14/2008 2:40 AM...  

Actually, I slipped twice. >.< I fail anonymity.

I'm not necessarily worried that she likes those books specifically, because they're the kind of thing she'll grow out of. And hell, they're the kind of thing you grow out of as soon as you learn about things like logic. It's more the larger picture of that kind of... indoctrination, I guess, that I worry about, since I know quite well how much even the well-meant stuff fucked with my head-- which probably deserves its own post.

But I post enough as it is, right? ^_^

Blogger Fever Dog saith at 2/15/2008 2:59 AM...  

Yeah, I'm always like "shut up! stop posting all the damn time!" your blog will break if you keep posting a hundred times a day :p

Blogger Jamie saith at 2/15/2008 3:40 PM...  

Oh why do they make those books for kids? I mean, I -know- why they make those books for kids, but...why do they make those books for kids?

Blogger marauder saith at 2/21/2008 2:11 PM...  

Never mind the kids' version ... why do they make them for adults?

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