Sande Ramage

Obama and Osama: A story for kids?

By Sande Ramage
May 8, 2011

"Mum", said Freddy, his face screwed up in concern as he watched President Obama announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, "if I'm bad will I be killed too?"

Like parents and teachers all over the world Mary was at a loss. "Tell me", she said as we sat at her kitchen table, "how I explain to my kids that what I've tried to teach them about justice is completely contrary to how the most powerful man in the world acts? Tell me how I explain that this killing is good for us, how it somehow makes the whole world a better place and is not an act of international thuggery?"

The contrast between what we say we want and what we do irritates at an individual level most days. A white lie here, a cover up of behaviour we're not proud of there are the inconsistencies of human existence. To see these enacted on the international stage makes us uncomfortable, as the Archbishop of Canterbury said this week.

Freddy edged up to his mum looking for the comfort her lap would provide. She held him close, breathing in his boy scent. This was her testosterone-fuelled rocket in the making who needed more than political side stepping right now.

"You know that time when you were hitting Ben in the backyard because he'd tried to hurt you?"

"Yeah", he mumbled as she stroked his hair. "And you went on hitting and hitting even when I told you to stop?"


"What did you tell me about how it made you feel?"

"It was awesome, cos I felt like I'd made him hurt for what he'd done to me."

"And we talked about how there were other ways to fix problems didn't we?"

"Yep and then I got grounded and felt like it was kind of unfair seeing as he started it."

Mary laughed. "Honey, you've no idea how much you sounded like the President of the United States just then."

"But mum that's different. He's the President. Can't he do anything he wants?"

"No he can't. There are laws in the world that we're all meant to go along with and if we break them we can be called to a court to explain our actions. A bit like we try and do at home when things go wrong. Everyone gets to tell their story and then we decide on what happens."

"Did the Osama man break those rules?"

"Yes Freddy, he did and the right thing was to get him to court to explain why he hurt other people."

"Then why didn't the President take him to court mum?"

"I don't know Freddy", Mary replied. He slipped off her lap, content for now until the next confusing adult assault on his worldview.

Explaining to kids the irrationality of adult behaviour is challenging, but in Obama's case it's almost an impossibility as the killing looks, according to Geoffrey Robertson, QC, "increasingly like a cold-blooded assassination order by a president who, as a former law professor, knows the absurdity of his statement that “justice was done”'.

This article also appeared on Pray the News (


(c) Sande Ramage, from Wairarapa, New Zealand, is an Anglican priest who explores spirituality in a way that is "not restricted by institutional religion". She is an Ekklesia partner. This article is republished with grateful acknowledgements from her blog: Sande can also be followed on Twitter at:

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