It’s just after dinner, You’re full and you’re warm,
You’ve eaten your veggies and finished your chores,
You’ve done all your homework and helped with the cleaning.
Now here comes the moment that gives the day meaning:
It’s time to unwind with life’s little joys
Mom turns on the TV and you take out your toys.

As Mom flips the channel to the evening news
You see lots of things that are bound to confuse.
You hear of strange places, with many strange names,
You see all these faces and they all look the same:
They’re crying, they’re yelling, they’re covered in grime
There’s screaming, there’s frowning, and you think all the time:
They all look the same. It’s worth saying again:
The same as your parents, the same as your friends,
The same as your sister, your brother, your teacher
The same as your rabbi or imam or preacher.

What you see in these strange places is something called WAR.
It’s something a lot of folks choose to ignore.
Because your feel safe, in your home with your mom
your dads or your grandma, your cat or your dog
Hugging your teddy in a soft bed at night
Dad’s checked under for monsters, there’s no reason for fright.
It’s easy to think every kid feels this way
But that’s simply not true in the world of today.
In a whole lot of places less lucky than we
Destruction and sadness are all people see.

In faraway places with strange sounding names
People live in fear of the soldiers and planes,
The thunder of hundreds of thousands of boots,
The rat-tat-tat-tat of their guns as they shoot.
A family’s home, where they’ve lived all their life
Can all disappear in the course of a night.

It’s easier to fear and to blame the ones fighting
But it’s often not their fault; they’re equally frightened
Fighters may do many terrible things
But when you look at their lives, you’ll see where it begins:

Often it starts with a childhood trauma,
A child your age stolen away from his mama.
Children hurt by the world; filled early with rage.
You can watch it unfold as you go through each page.
Sometimes the anger starts later in life,
Perhaps for the widow who once was a wife.
Sometimes it happens over a series of years,
As TV and governments play with people’s fears.
It occurs gradually, not overnight,
People are given dumb reasons to fight.
Entire countries can be convinced to kill
Over something as stupid as who owns a hill
Over flags, nothing more than colored cloth squares,
Over colors of skins or of eyes or of hairs.

Want to know why hate’s so easy to breed?
Think of your own family’s history:
If your grandpa told you of a murderous band
Of men in the next town who took HIS grandpa’s land
And he told you about your relatives that they’d killed,
do you honestly think that you would be thrilled
If you went over there and saw in that place
A girl of your age with a smile on her face?
You wouldn’t think, as so many do,
That her whole family’s guilty, the little girl, too.
You would remember, like a reasonable kid,
That this girl didn’t do what her ancestors did.
Whatever has happened in the past century or two
The little girl is as guiltless as you.

There are people who don’t think in your sensible way,
Who for the crimes of the past blame the kids of today.
They believe that that girl should be blamed
For all their misfortunes and all of their pain.
They’d think everything that has ever been wrong in their world
Would be better if they took revenge on that girl.
And the crimes they remember are much older than these
Not their grandpa’s grandpa, but back centuries.
And that little girl’s village sees a whole different view
Where your grandpa was evil, and now so are you.
It’s been many lifetimes since that struggle went down
Each still tell scary stories of the other now-peaceful village.
They frighten their children and teach them to fight
And tensions keep rising ‘til one fateful night,
The two towns clash — yes they each play their part,
Until someone ends up dead, that’s how many wars start.

Think of the news your mom watched on TV:
Who chooses to show what your family sees?
Networks make money when people watch news
And frightening stories get many more views.
War is good business for TV and magazines
So they try to make more of it, by their own means.
Pictures are shown of angry young men
Then scary stories are told to make you fear them.
They tell you these people hate you but don’t tell us why
The news calls them enemies who’d be happy if we die.
And you can trust the reporters to tell you no lies,
But everyone’s story has at least two sides.

If you choose to believe what is shown on TV
After a few months of watching, they’ll be your enemy.
But those men who the TV just told you were bad?
They’re likely some little kid’s wonderful dad.
They speak different languages and they say different prayers,
But they might have real reasons to raise their fists in the air.
They may hate your country, but they do not hate you.
They’re often very angry about what governments do.
Maybe your country harmed somebody good
And they’re expressing their pain, like your dad surely would.
It’d be easy to fix if we looked through their eyes
And if they looked through yours, wouldn’t they be surprised
At how nice you are! just as nice as their kid!
War could be avoided if this is what everyone did.

This isn’t to say one should never step in,
There are times when quarreling isn’t a sin.
At rare times, there’s really no choice but to fight
In your own land defending your own rights
After leaders spend years doing terrible things.
Adults have named it, they call it a “Spring”
When people rise up to cast off oppression
Of dictators who hurt and kill to teach lessons.
But these are not wars, they are struggles for freedom
The differences are there, if you’re open to see them.

When the people rise up to seek liberty,
To speak out, to love, to pray or just to be
The leaders in charge, the men with the weapons
Hurt unarmed people, because their power is threatened.
And sometimes the struggling people need help
When they just don’t have the ability to defend themselves
In cases like this, it’s not always wrong to fight,
But it’s so hard to tell, who is wrong and who’s right.

Whatever their reasons, wherever they start,
War is a thing that will only break hearts.
Daughters lose daddies and sons lose their moms
And parents lose kids to the dropping of bombs,
To the shooting of guns and the rolling of tanks,
To the faceless soldiers of nameless ranks
Not knowing themselves how their actions can hurt
Sent by governments fighting over a mere piece of dirt.
The root of the problem, see this is a gem,
Is a word we all use, and that word is “Them”.
We think to ourselves “What’s Wrong with Those People?”
And that little thought is the root of all evil.
“Them” and “Those People” are just human beings
With noses for smellings and eyeballs for seeings.
With brains made for thinking incredible thoughts
As amazing as yours, believe it or not.
You may stare at some person in strange-patterned clothes
With a different skin color or pointier nose.
This person is special, this person is new.
Don’t think, “What is that?” Instead think, “Who are you?”
‘Cause whatever you’re thinking, as they stare back at you
This strange new human being is probably thinking it, too.

It’s so very easy to fall into such patterns
Of division about all these things that don’t matter.
So try to remember if you start thinking mean thoughts
About folks from other religions or races or birth spots
That you’re really no different from those children of war,
Just a million times luckier in where you were born.
Wherever you go, whatever you do,
This whole great big world is made up of you.
It’s made up of I and it’s made up of me,
It’s made up of us and of ours and of we.
When we allow people to go and divide us
We lose so very much of the good that’s inside us.

Countries that today trade for computers and cars
That support one another in missions to the stars
Almost always fought large wars in their history
Whose reasons to us today are a mystery,
Creating prejudice over the way people speak
Or look or pray, till it reaches its peak
Of people killing people with anger and hate,
Until someone says “stop!” and then everything’s great.
Nothing happened at all, or so everyone pretends
Ignoring years of fighting as though they’d always been friends,
Pointless deaths, all those millions who died.
There were plenty of options, if the right people had tried.
We’ve lost millions of people who could have been friends
Because lazy leaders decided to make war, not amends.
And in each of those millions of people was something bright
Something sparkling that could have brought to this world new light.

This is an explanation of war, its roots and its causes.
War is as old as human history, with very few pauses.
The difference today is how we perceive it.
People used to think war was great, if you can believe it,
But war has been shown to cause only pain
A lazy solution that takes far less brains.
War is a problem, it isn’t an answer.
Fighting to solve problems only worsens the anger.
When you see all of this, it may feel just too much,
But nothing will change if we give into such
Feelings as hopelessness, doubt or despair:
We can end war, if enough people care.

So you sit there and wonder, what can I do?
Remember there can be world peace, and that peace starts with you.
You can show love, and you can be nice to
Everyone, even those who are mean to you.
Don’t let them push you around, but try to get in their brain:
What makes them so mean, what caused them such pain?
If you don’t fight but instead ease the hurt from their mind
They might follow your lead and to others be kind.
If we all started seeing through other peoples’ eyes
War would be over, no more have to die.

And all of this, all of this, all starts with you

You have more strength than you think you do.

Starting with you and your compassionate powers,
We can stop sending bombs, and begin sending flowers.

Copyright 2014, Zachary Gallant

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6 thoughts on “The Text

  1. This is the most excellent text ever written to explain to a kid what war really is, why wars are started in the first place, and why it is the responsibility of all of us to put an end to this madness!
    Keep up the good work and make sure word gets around to help make this world a better place if not for us then for our children and their children!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anazing! This book makes me want to have kids so I can read it to them. I found it interesting as a sixteen year old advanced student, so i wonder how young kids will take it.

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  3. Great idea. Now, for the nitpick: as I commented on the Vice article written about this project, I’m not a fan of the usage of “quarreling”. That’s beyond the grasp of most six-year-olds, and it’s a somewhat vague term at any age in terms of whether it’s referring to verbal or physical combat. If you mean to say “fighting”, say it. Yes, “fighting” is itself a vague term but I think it has more currency with the average six-year-old (or kid of any age)

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  4. Thanks for all your supportive comments!
    Klaus, that’s incredibly high praise, I’m honored and hope to produce a product worthy of it!
    Tia, we’re hoping to make the world a more peaceful place by the time you do have kids of your own, and if you do end up reading this book to any young children, please let us know their reactions: we’re always working to make it better for them.
    Matt, thanks for the input! As I wrote back to VICE, our target goal is 8 and up, but we do want it to be graspable by a 6 year old if they’re advanced enough to ask “Why?”. We’re continuing to work with educators and psychologists to make edits that will make it more understandable to children, and we welcome your input.
    We love reading your supportive messages, and if you all have any ideas for improving the text, please e-mail them to us at warachildrensbook@gmail.com so we can make sure they’re heard during the next round of edits!

    ~Zach, Jenna, and the War: A Children’s Book team

    Like

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