The Wisdom of Children
by Simon Rich, March 26, 2007
I. A Conversation at the Grownup Table, as Imagined at the Kids’ Table
MOM: Pass the wine, please. I want to become crazy.
GRANDMOTHER: Did you see the politics? It made me angry.
DAD: Me, too. When it was over, I had sex.
UNCLE: I’m having sex right now.
DAD: We all are.
MOM: Let’s talk about which kid I like the best.
DAD: (laughing) You know, but you won’t tell.
MOM: If they ask me again, I might tell.
FRIEND FROM WORK: Hey, guess what! My voice is pretty loud!
DAD: (laughing) There are actual monsters in the world, but when my kids ask I pretend like there aren’t.
MOM: I’m angry! I’m angry all of a sudden!
DAD: I’m angry, too! We’re angry at each other!
MOM: Now everything is fine.
DAD: We just saw the PG-13 movie. It was so good.
MOM: There was a big sex.
FRIEND FROM WORK: I am the loudest! I am the loudest!
MOM: I had a lot of wine, and now I’m crazy!
GRANDFATHER: Hey, do you guys know what God looks like?
GRANDFATHER: Don’t tell the kids.
II. A Day at UNICEF Headquarters, as I Imagined It in Third Grade
(UNICEF sits on a throne. He is wearing a cape and holding a sceptre. A servant enters, on his knees.)
UNICEF: Halloween is fast approaching! Have the third graders been given their little orange boxes?
SERVANT: Yes, your majesty!
UNICEF: Perfect. Did you tell them what the money was for?
SERVANT: No, sir, of course not! We just gave them the boxes and told them to collect for UNICEF. We said it was for “a good cause,” but we didn’t get any more specific than that.
UNICEF: Ha ha ha! Those fools! Soon I will have all the money in the world. For I am UNICEF, evil king of Halloween!
SERVANT: Sir . . . don’t you think you’ve stolen enough from the children? Maybe you should let them keep the money this year.
UNICEF: Never! The children shall toil forever to serve my greed!
(He tears open a little orange box full of coins and rubs them all over his fat stomach.)
UNICEF: Yes! Oh, yes!
SERVANT: Wait! Your majesty! Look at this! Our records indicate that there’s a kid out there—Simon—who’s planning to keep his UNICEF money this year.
UNICEF: What?! But what about my evil plans? I was going to give that money to the Russians so they could build a bomb!
SERVANT: (aside) I guess there’s still one hero left in this world.
(He runs out of the castle, sobbing.)
SERVANT: Thank God Simon is keeping his UNICEF money.
SECOND SERVANT: Yes, it’s good that he’s keeping the money.
THIRD SERVANT: I agree. Simon is doing a good thing by keeping the money from the UNICEF box.
SERVANT: Then we’re all in agreement. Simon should keep the money.
III. How College Kids Imagine the United States Government
THE PRESENT DAY
—Did you hear the news, Mr. President? The students at the University of Pittsfield are walking out of their classes, in protest over the war.
—(spits out coffee) Wha— What did you say?
—Apparently, students are standing up in the middle of lectures and walking right out of the building.
—But students love lectures. If they’re willing to give those up, they must really be serious about this peace thing! How did you hear about this protest?
—The White House hears about every protest, no matter how small.
—Oh, right, I remember.
—You haven’t heard the half of it, Mr. President. The leader of the group says that if you don’t stop the war today they’re going to . . . to . . . I’m sorry, I can’t say it out loud. It’s just too terrifying.
—Say it, damn it! I’m the President!
—All right! If you don’t stop the war . . . they’re going to stop going to school for the remainder of the week.
—Send the troops home.
—But, Mr. President! Shouldn’t we talk about this?
—Send the troops home.
—Mr. President! Did you hear about Woodstock?
—Woo— Woodstock? What in God’s name is that?
—Apparently, young people hate the war so much they’re willing to participate in a musical sex festival as a protest against it.
—Oh, my God. They must really be serious about this whole thing.
—That’s not all. Some of them are threatening to join communes: places where they make their own clothing . . . and beat on drums.
—Stop the war.
—But, Mr. President!
—Stop all American wars!
—(sighs) Very well, sir. I’ll go tell the generals.
—Wow. It’s a good thing those kids decided to go hear music.