Taliban and Spaceships

I love how little kids think. Driving to camp today, my daughter heard a news clip about the Taliban. All news clips about these jerks are sobering. But it is nice to see such things through non-cynical first grader eyes. She asked who they were. Once again, as in previous politically-inspired conversations, I was forced to slow down, take all the million dollar words out and distill the situation into something a first grader (albeit very smart) would understand. So I explained “that they are a group of people who want to tell other people in their countries how to live and dress, and what to think, ( not like your parents do, kiddo), and they hurt people who don’t do what they say. So a lot of people are unhappy and don’t want to be ruled by them.”

She thought about that for a minute, and said, “Well why don’t they go somewhere else, away from the Taliban?” (Since we often tell her that if someone is bothering her to walk away and go play with someone else.) So I explained that when it is somewhere you live, it is not always that easy. Not everyone has money to go somewhere else. It takes money to move. Also, the Taliban are in a lot of different places, and we don’t always know where they are. To which she asked, “Well, why don’t we give them ships so they can get away from them in space? Are the Taliban in outer space?”

At this point, I bent double over the steering wheel, but explained that we really only have one spaceship that can carry people and it just went on its last mission, the Space Shuttle, and it only carries a few astronauts. So from there, the conversation took a left turn into why we don’t have more space ships, and money for the Space Program. And that conversation ended with our arrival at camp, an explanation of thermodynamics, and why popsicle sticks wouldn’t work for space ship material. After the physics reasons, she added that people would get fat from eating all those popsicles to build the ship.

Well, we didn’t solve any world problems today. But despite the normally depressing topic, I was really glad, as I always am of talking with my daughter. I don’t make light of the horrific plight of folks who are trapped in oppressive situations like those facing coup by the Taliban. On the contrary, my daughter’s innocent yet innovative suggestions remind me that I can have those conversations, and how lucky she and I both are to not be in such a situation. Nor is this meant as a blanket statement about freedoms in the U.S. Really, I just wanted to remember that moment when my day got a little brighter thinking about solving problems with popsicle-stick space ships. That’ll never get old.

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