The Difference Between Children and Adults

The facts are relatively straightforward:

In Afghanistan, American soldiers inadvertently burned several copies of the Koran. Apparently, it was an honest mistake; however–predictably–it infuriated many Muslims. Some of them have responded violently, and a recent attack that killed two Americans may have been prompted by the incident.

President Obama apologized for the burning of the Muslim’s holy book.

Newt Gingrich and other Republicans criticized the President for apologizing even before the recent attacks. Locally, Gary Varvel’s cartoon on the matter showed caskets covered with American flags and the President off to the side apologizing–defiantly suggesting, with the attitude of five-year-olds everywhere, that “they’re worse than we are, so we shouldn’t apologize.”

Let’s (patiently–in the manner of parents of small children everywhere) use this as a “teachable” moment. A couple of lessons come to mind.

First, let’s try putting ourselves in the other guy’s shoes. How do you think the bible-thumpers in the United States would have reacted if bibles had been accidentally burned by Muslims? With reason and understanding, acknowledging that “accidents happen”? Of course not.

Now, let’s talk about appropriate/inappropriate behavior. Violence is never appropriate; it is a sign of immaturity and lack of discipline. It doesn’t matter “who started it”–fighting doesn’t solve anything. It makes things worse, and it doesn’t persuade anyone of anything. So the Afghans’ response was wrong.

Lesson three is important. Adults apologize for their mistakes. Those apologies are not a sign of weakness; quite the contrary. As we constantly admonish our children, admitting when you’ve done something wrong–accidentally or purposely–and saying “I’m sorry” when that is appropriate are signs of honesty and maturity.

And as I used to tell my children, you apologize when you’ve done something wrong even if the other guy is a jerk who doesn’t accept that apology. Because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s what separates the children from the adults.


  1. Thanks Prof K.
    I am a firm believer that our lives (and our country) would all be better if we kept applying those things that were tought in Kindergarten.
    Don’t Lie. Say Please & Thank You.
    Admit when you are wrong.
    Apologize when you err.
    Simple stuff
    WAY too complex for the Varvels of this world.

  2. Amen to taking the basics of Kindergarten or the family unit and applying them to our “lives and country”. Just because we have well-intended ideals and the scale of government to play with, doesn’t make some goals any more achievable than they are at home or in the classroom.

    Spending $5 billion per business day to fund benefits we couldn’t afford even after cutting defense and further taxing the rich comes to mind. We generally eat out less and don’t take as many field trips when money is tight at home or in the classroom. In D.C., it’s the bipartisan cue for round after round of “stimulus” or “quantitative easing”.

    Thank you for acknowledging the lack on intent in burning the Korans. I’m sure there would be outrage over Bible burnings. When the Christians start flying hijacked planes into mosques to target thousands of civilians, then I’ll believe less in the terror of a few extremists and more in an all-out Holy War.

  3. If President Obama had not apologized for the inadvertent burning of the Koran, he would have been sharply criticized for that, too–by the same wingnuts.

    This is the grown-up version of the demolition derby. Newt’s down–way down–and grasping at anything he can find.

  4. He repeated on “Meet The Press” this morning that since the burning was accidental, there should be no apology. Unfortunately, lawyers often advise against apologies because they can be seen as an admission of civil liability. But that’s not what this is all about by a long shot.

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