While the blog world churns over washingtonpost.com blogger William Arkin, the "On Balance" blog at the same website has a guest column today from Steve Fox, a former national political editor at the Post website about sharing 9/11 facts with his 8-year-old son. "On Balance" isn't about media bias -- it's about balancing work and family -- but Fox certainly demonstrated his political take, since his son was soon suggesting he would throw the F-bomb at President Bush:
My eight-year-old son recently came home with a book titled: September 11, 2001: The Day That Changed America.
My first reaction: What's THAT book doing in an elementary school? Then I remembered that whole censorship thing. As a journalist, I'm supposed to be against that. As a parent, I want all 9/11 books moved to the middle school library.
I asked my son why he had picked out the book.
He said: "I wanted to read about it because you never talk about it and I wanted to see if you've lied about it."
Lie is a big word with eight-year-olds, especially ones with Sean's black-and-white view of the universe.
I told him that yes, Mom and Dad had avoided talking to him about it because it dredges up old emotions (the sex talk will be easy). I told him I agree with the headline of the book. The world has changed. And now I was facing what I had hoped to avoid: How do I tell my kid about the world before and the new world he's growing up in now?
He listened. Eight-year-olds rarely do that. He locked in on the book's facts, which said that 5,000 were killed in the attacks. I told him it was closer to 3,000. The numbers seemed to overwhelm him. The book had many chilling photos from that day.
He asked what "hijackers" meant. He asked how the planes could have been taken over by strangers. We talked about the Pennsylvania crash and "heroes." I told him about how I had seen smoke coming from the Pentagon....
He asked about Palestinians and Israelis. He asked, "How come everyone hates us?"
I told him that we didn't know how many people hated us before that day. That it's gotten worse since September 11. That we lost a chance to make it better.
He said he hated President Bush. "He doesn't care about the people of this country and he doesn't want to hear what people have to say. I even tried to help him when I sent him an e-mail and he didn't respond back to me," said my son.
"I would use the f-word if I saw him," Sean said. I had spoken to him about not using that word before; this time I just let it go.
I realize now that I can't shield him from the truth anymore. He's in third grade. He knows about 9/11 now. But he still believes in Santa Claus.
The credit line read:
Steve Fox worked as an editor at washingtonpost.com for 10 years. He was the national/political editor on 9/11 and during its aftermath. He lives in Gaithersburg, Md., with his family.
Fox now works at the website NewAssignment.net, founded by liberal New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen.