Should we tell our children of this evil in our midst, or not?

If we, as adults and parents, along with political leaders and religious leaders from around the globe, cannot comprehend the barbarity of such an act, what hope an eight-year-old? asks John Dolan in his weekly column
Should we tell our children of this evil in our midst, or not?
Members of the public observe a national minute's silence in remembrance of all those who lost their lives in the Manchester Arena attack, on May 25, 2017 in Manchester, England. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

BEING an early riser, I got wind of the true horror of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack before most of my friends and family who live in and around that city.

My first reaction on Tuesday morning was to scan my social media networks to ensure none of them had been caught up in the carnage.

It was a short-lived relief to find all were safe, because the images of people missing then began to appear and then the victims of the suicide bombing began to be named, one by one.

I may not have known these people, but it was dreadful to imagine the agonies of the bereaved and to think of such innocent young lives being snuffed out in a split second.

We think we are immune to the appalling acts of ISIS, but when one man adorns himself with a crude bomb and deliberately targets young children exiting a pop concert, you struggle for words to attach to such evil and hatred.

Throughout the week, newspapers, TV, radio and social media have documented the terrors of that night, and the consequences.

Of course, we cannot censor such appalling news, but one comment from a friend and mother who lives near Manchester on Tuesday morning did stop me in my tracks.

“I shouldn’t have to be explaining to my eight-year-old what a suicide bomber is,” said my friend, whose sister had been at the concert with her daughter, “my son is watching the news not understanding why someone would do that, just like the rest of us.”

This wake-up call to a wide-eyed child’s innocence, at eight — the stark message that the world can be a bad and dangerous place for us all — is just one of the consequences of such a terrorist act.

If we, as adults and parents, along with political leaders and religious leaders from around the globe, cannot comprehend the barbarity of such an act, what hope an eight-year-old?

And, furthermore, what damage is being done to the young generations across the west by these regular attacks on our way of life, as they dominate our media streams? To them, life must appear cheap, and evil must be all around us.

Will these children grow up fearful or resentful as a result?

If they do, who could blame them?

It’s true that young people are extremely resilient and have an innate ability to move on from such worrying experiences without properly processing them.

But I’m sure there were millions of parents, me included, across Ireland, Britain and elsewhere this week, who could only look on as their children heard stories about the Manchester atrocity, and the fact that young people their age were deliberately targeted.

What are we meant to do?

Our media can’t stop reporting it — ISIS would see that as a victory, and such democratic pillars as freedom of speech are part of the reason that vile organisation hates us so much.

Even if we blocked TV or social media, the children would only pick up the news second hand at school.

Many psychologists tell us we ought to talk these things through with children, to allow them to register them mentally and then move on.

But that is very hard when both adult and child keep coming back to the same basic question — why did this person commit this murderous act? — and neither can begin to comprehend the answer.

There is no easy solution, save to hope that the youngsters who see such scenes of terror in the media, also see the amazing displays of inner strength and unity that such tragedy brings.

Once again this week, we looked on as a city showed remarkable strength in the face of awful adversity.

Just like in Paris, Nice, Berlin, Orlando, and other cities targeted by ISIS in recent times, Manchester and its people found themselves under the spotlight — and the reaction of all was to shine out as a beacon of hope and defiance.

The rallying cries for help — for everything from taxis to blood — met with an overwhelming response, and we all realise that this would be the case in any town or city here in Ireland too.

Evil may have briefly trumped good on Monday night, but good was all around Manchester this week.

And the message was remarkably calm and measured, given the circumstances: We will get through this, the terrorists must never, ever be allowed to win.

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