Juliette is at an age where she gets into kid movies. I'm not just talking about Despicable Me or Tangled, but any sentimental live action movie, too, however predictable and mediocre the plot may be. As long as there are kids (and preferably animals), she will beg to watch it. So it has become part of our weekend ritual: watching a kid movie on the couch (which I usually fall asleep halfway through).
But for the parts I've stayed awake in, I have noticed a few key things. There is just about always a bad guy/gal or guys. And Juliette can pick them out right away. Of course, they often have wild, unkempt hair or look grungy or smarmy. They might have a deep tough guy voice or a pipsqueak one, but she knows they are the ones who will be kicked in the knees at some point in the movie. And she's right. The good guys always win in kid movies.
Too bad life isn't more like a kid movie. When we happen to be watching the news during dinner time, she sees plenty of bad guys, too. We tell her the ones who kill cops or innocents are the "bad guys", and that they have been caught or are being pursued. Don't worry, we tell her. They aren't here. They're in another city or country.
She knows about war, too. From things she's heard on tv or history lessons at school. And when they show images of a war-torn country on tv, she asks, "It's not in France?" No, there is no war in France, we tell her. In her mind, France decided to have no more wars, as one of her teachers must have told them.
The thing is, life is just a lot more complicated than that. So complicated that I try to avoid watching the news with her around and therefore am rather ill-informed. But I still hear about the bad guys and scratch my head that there are so many around. And that they kill in the name of God or history or some psychological disturbance. Just today my mom emailed me about a beheading near Grenoble, in the south of France. It appears once again to be related to Islamic fundamentalists. The reporters say these groups want to bring "war" to France. It's not the first time I've heard it said out loud.
And it's not just France, of course. If some misled southern boy goes on a shooting spree in a South Carolina church, we know evil is just in our backyard. If a right-wing mentally-disturbed Norwegian can kill his own countrymen in some zealous rampage in that normally peaceful country, we certainly don't feel safe. Total safety from these kinds of attacks just doesn't exist today, no matter how hard we wish it did.
If only it were as easy as Juliette told me the other night before bed. She said we should just change the bad guys. It's easy to change people, she reasoned. You can change the color of their hair or their clothes, she told me. I told her it was a bit more complicated. We have to change their hearts and their brains, I said. Like the boy in your class who's naughty, I reminded her. Even if the teacher tells him to behave, he might act up again.
Only problem is, the bad guys of today have automatic weapons and bombs, not just spitballs or dodgeballs like the kids in school. And no stern talking to will change their minds. So it's up to us "good guys" to keep the faith and stand up somehow against the darkness. Because we know how this movie is supposed to end.