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Russell Shaw Headshot

Teach Your Children Well -- Teach Peace

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Somewhere, maybe in your town, there was a house with an empty seat at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

You probably don't know the people who live in this house, but you may have seen this house.

It's the house with several large American flags, "W" and Bush/Cheney" bumper stickers on the window of the SUV parked out front. Maybe a "Freedom Is Not Free" on the rear window. Perhaps even a fish on the rear bumper as well.

Who lives in this house?

This is a family who from their boy's early childhood, told him to stand up and fight. To not back down.

This is a family who did not say "no" when their son was four, and he asked for a toy gun for Christmas.

This is a family who taught their son that there is "right," and there is "wrong," and there is "good," and there is "evil," and shades of gray are for the weak-minded.

This is a family that believed, and taught their son, not to question authority and to always follow orders.

This is a family that has always believed, and taught their son, "my country, right or wrong."

This is a family where the father holds Jane Fonda and Bill Clinton in only slightly less contempt than Satan, and who listens to Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, O'Reilly.

This is a family who beamed with pride when their son joined ROTC.

This is a family with a son who, after 9/11, saw evil in the burning towers and wanted to do his part to kick back at that evil 1,000 times harder than they hit us.

This is a family who believed that Saddam was behind it all.

This is a family who beamed with pride when their son became a soldier.

This is a family who beamed when their son beamed at them over an Internet video call from Tikrit.

This is a family with a son who wandered too close to a roadside bomb.

This is a family who, two days later, got a knock on their door from two impeccably dressed, sad-eyed men in uniform.

This is a family who since that knock, has cried.

This is a family who as they said Grace yesterday, looked at that empty chair at the head of the dinner table, and then looked upward where they believe that communication could be established with he who would have been sitting there if only.

If only the Lord hadn't called him home.

But maybe this was not the Lord's doing.

If only he would have been taught another way.

But is too late for that.

We must, instead, ask, what can this family teach us?

There will be other wars. And other boys who want to play with guns, and who will have the urge to fight when they feel wrong.

But in other houses, there are sons who will learn not to play with guns, who will learn to think rather than to react, who will be taught that sometimes the difference between good and evil is not as stark as a President or a preacher might say, or that their country is not always right.

Sons (and daughters) in these houses will learn that turning the other cheek is not a sign of weakness, but of strength.

For it is in these houses that peace will be taught.