What Do You Tell Your Children About 9/11?

Detail from the graphic novel I Survived the attacks of September 11, 2001

The empire never stops churning out soft propaganda to make sure that the next generations in the U.S. are as confused about their government’s wrongdoings as their forebears were. When do you tell your own children the truth? And how do you present it in terms they are able to understand?

I’ve previously mentioned the publishing company Scholastic which does a lot of the heavy lifting around selling pro-war, pro-imperialism narratives to young children. One of their mechanisms for infiltrating public schools is through book fairs, thoroughly commercial enterprises that reach right into publicly funded school time to sell kids on militarism with books that come with their own set of dog tags. Never too young to start thinking about being cannon fodder for the empire!

A Scholastic series that is very popular with a first grader I love is the I Survived series. Among historical fiction about a character who survives the great molasses flood in Boston or the shark attacks of 1916 we find the title: I SURVIVED THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001.

Consuming stories about peril like fairy tales or historical fiction is a way to process our fears as fragile human beings. Preying on this tendency in order to sell imperial narratives is a way to make money while serving the power structures that can make our lives prosperous or miserable.

But what to tell the children?

Australian mom Caitlin Johnstone wrote today: 

Humans have two adulthoods: the first is physical maturity, the second is intellectual maturity. The second adulthood is the process of learning that everything you were taught about the world in childhood is false, and discovering the truth of what’s really going on. The first adulthood is thrust upon us by nature and time, while the second is a conscious and deliberate process we choose for ourselves. All humans reach the first adulthood if they live long enough. Very few reach the second.

I prefer the discovery method of education but what is a reasonable response to the barrage of misinformation visited upon a typical American 1st grader?

Well friends, I came right out and said in response to many questions about the details of the 9/11 attack in New York City: Your own government caused 9/11. This news was received with skepticism (hooray!) and then I faced the fundamental pedagogical question, how best to support my claim for this audience?

I went with the amazing coincidence between what the event would come to be called and the three digit emergency services number that all in the U.S. had known for years: dial 911.

Still skeptical (hooray!).

Then I felt it only fair to protect my loved one who is still quite an innocent child by adding: If you say this at school, some people might get mad at you.

You may disagree with my choices. I had the benefit of a father who told me the hard truth about political realities long before most children were thought old enough to handle it. I think this accelerated what Johnstone calls the second adulthood. It’s been a benefit in my life, not a curse.

What do you tell the children about 9/11?