The Huffington Post is highlighting a short video of a reporter interviewing a little French boy and his father as an exchange that “may be the most touching reminder you’ll see that only love can conquer hate.” After the boy expresses the fear that the family might move, the father reassures him that Paris is their home. Then this exchange happens:
“But there are bad guys, Daddy!” the boy says.
“Yes, but there are bad guys everywhere,” his father counters.
“They have guns, they can shoot at us because they have guns and are bad,” the boy continues.
“Well, they have guns, but we have flowers,” the father says.
“But flowers don’t do anything,” the boy argues.
“See all the flowers?” his dad asks. “They’re to fight against the guns.”
“Are they there to protect?” the boy asks. “The candles too?”
“There you go,” his dad says. “It’s to not forget those who left us yesterday.”
“The flowers and the candles,” the boy concludes, “they’re there to protect us.”
The reporter jumps back in and asks the boy, “So are you feeling better?”
“Yep,” he says. I’m feeling better.”
Look, I know it’s difficult to introduce concepts of evil, death, and war to small children, but here the son has more instinctive wisdom than his father. The father is deceiving his son. Love does indeed conquer hate, but flowers don’t. The love that conquers hate is the love a father has for his son when he puts on his uniform, grabs his rifle, and confronts the evil that wants to take his son’s life. The love that conquers hate is the love of French sailors and pilots for their country and for their families as they deploy to the Middle East to triple France’s striking power against ISIS. Neither the desire for peace nor the symbols of peace create peace.
When I left for Iraq the conversations with my six-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter were among the most difficult I’ve ever had. I still don’t think I handled it all correctly, but I tried to communicate the reality that I’m leaving them because I love them, that someone has to confront evil, and that if every dad who loves his kids stayed home, then we couldn’t defend our nation. They didn’t understand everything then, but they understand now. I truly hope that French father has a different, truthful conversation with his son when the cameras are off. Learning truth and wisdom is a process, and there’s no better time than the present to start.