The Breakfast Table

Guns and Mommies

Dear Toho,

Thanks for bringing me breakfast in bed this morning. Alas, it’s not quite the sybaritic experience it once was, now that there’s a 2-year-old with a runny nose smearing Vegemite on the sheets while pointing to every picture in the Washington Post that has a gun in it and demanding: “What’s that? What’s he going to do with it?”

It’s odd, when you spend most of your time trying to nurture any small flicker of interest he shows in the world, to come up against one you so much wish to squelch. So many people around here in rural Virginia keep guns in their homes that when I drop him off for a play date, I feel like I have to enquire as to whether the household arsenal is adequately secured. From time to time he asks, “Mummy likes guns?” He knows the response is “No, Mummy doesn’t like guns.” This morning he advanced the discussion with a fairly logical follow-up question: “Do bad mummies like guns?”

What is the appropriate response there?

By now the bombs may be flying over Belgrade, and I can’t in my heart say I think it’s wrong, when the alternative is so starkly horrible. The Sydney Morning Herald has a painful description of children, alone, walking away from their village as Serbs destroy it, shivering in the cold because their mothers evidently hadn’t even been able to get coats on them before the soldiers made them separate.

I wonder what the Sarajevan papers say this morning. It must be hard to read Clinton’s lip-biting Nazi analogies now, if your children are buried in one of the city’s graveyards that used to be a park. I suppose that today’s action is being driven by all the past, unconscionable inactions.

I was drawn from the rumors of international war to two small stories elsewhere in the paper on interpersonal war. “All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own fashion,” says old Leo, and this morning’s news reports of Hillary dragging her unhappy self off to Cairo, checking out the only big city that may be more chaotic and have a higher percentage of wisecracking citizens than the one in which she wants to run for Senate. You can see that brittle mind working away: What will really punish Bill? Becoming president and doing it better than he did. Meanwhile, the business page reports that Anna Murdoch is hanging tough on what looks to be a world-record-breaking divorce settlement. Her ultimate torture apparatus is the threat of breaking the trust Rupert created that gave his family control of 30 percent of News Corp. Ever since a single bank almost ruined him in 1990, Rupert has been obsessive about control. So Anna may have quite a weapon in her hands.

Smart mummies don’t need guns.