Mark is five years old. The following is a mostly verbatim account of a conversation that he and I had earlier today. He is a very curious, albeit stubborn fellow, who is quietly brilliant in his own way. He's a difficult kid to teach on most occasions, but he has a cache of knowledge that he delves into at times to produce questions and express ideas that are well beyond his age.
Mark: "Dad, are Americans in a war right now?"
Me: "Yeah. What made you ask that"
Mark: "Are we fighting the Germans again?"
Me: "No, Germany's our friend now."
Mark: "But they weren't are friends in Call of Duty 2 and 3."
(The Call of Duty game series is a first-person war simulation that, much to my wife's chagrin, Mark enjoys watching me play)
Me: "No, they weren't our friends in World War II, but the Germans are different now. They like us, and we like them."
Mark: "Then are we fighting the Russians?"
Mark: "Are we fighting communists?"
Me: "No, we're fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Mark: "I don't know any of those places. Are they far away?"
Me: "Yes, they're very far away."
Mark: "Are they on Earth?"
Me: "Yes. Would you like to see them on the globe?"
Mark: "Oh yes."
Me: "There's Iraq, and Afghanistan is right by it."
Mark: "Wow that's on the other side of the Earth!"
Me: "I know."
Mark: "Why are we fighting them?"
Me: "Well, the government in Afghanistan helped some people kill a lot of Americans, so we invaded and overthrew their government. We invaded Iraq because George Bush wanted to."
Mark: "George Bush is the president, right?"
Mark: "Did a lot of people get killed in that war?"
Mark: "Then why did George Bush want to fight that war?"
Me: "Good question."
Mark: "Is George Bush a bad president?"
Me: "I think so, yes."
Mark: "Do you still want Ron Poop to be president?"
(He calls Ron Paul "Ron Poop" just to bug me).
Me: "Yes, but he isn't going to be president."
Mark: "Why not?"
Me: "Because not enough people support him."
Mark: "But you do."
Me: "Yes, that's true. But I'm only one person, and it takes tens of millions of people to decide who the president is going to be."
Mark: "Well, I think that Ron Poop should be president too."
Me: "Why is that?"
Mark: "Because you like him so much."
Me: "But why do I like him so much?"
Mark: "I dunno, but it has something to do about freedom, you always say."
Me: "That's right, buddy. Hey, do you want a cookie?"
Mark: "Ooo yes!"
Me: "And I'll let you have a glass of Dr. Pepper if you tell me who the best president was."
Mark: "Ron Paul?"
Me: "Nice try, but he hasn't ever been President."
Mark: "Then I dunno. It's not Lincoln because you hate Lincoln."
Me: "But whom do I like?"
Mark: "None of them?"
Me: "Close, but come on. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?"
Mark: "Thomas Jefferson!"
Me: "Yes, and in the Declaration of Independence, he said that we are born with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of what?"
Mark: "I dunno. Just give me my Dr. Pepper, please."
Me: "OK, buddy. Just tell me who we're fighting in a war right now."
Mark: "I already told you that I don't know those places. I just know that they're on the other side of the Earth and they're not Germans, Russians, or Communists."
Me: "Good enough, Captain."
Mark: "Don't call me that. My name's Mark."