I was asked this question tonight.
Ironically, I did my best to explain.
First, you don't. Explanations are answers - and if we had answers for things like Sept. 11 and today's bombing at the Boston Marathon, they wouldn't happen.
No one knows precisely what causes people to do these things.
What I do, I replied, is the best I can. I never know if it was correct or even right. I may never know.
I recall the day I picked Kay up from school and she asked about Sept. 11. It was one of the handful of times I really broke a sweat over how to respond.
This is how lifelong stereotypes are formed, I thought. Be careful.
Instead of talking about religion, I mentioned beliefs. Some folks do not believe what we believe, I said. This is traditionally determined by where a person lives.
"You know how we live in South Carolina?"
"You know how it's in the United States?"
"Well, the United States is cool, but it's just one of many countries on the Earth. Remember your projects on Brazil and Germany? Those are other countries - and their citizens don't necessarily believe the things we believe."
Then I had to tie it into extremism. My response was slow; I paused at every word.
"Unfortunately, some people ... don't understand what they're taught ... or make it seem different than it's meant so they justify doing something ... selfish."
Selfish may not have been the most appropriate word, I thought, but it's one she understands and is kind of close.
"So the people who flew those planes were selfish?" she asked.
"Well, they might have been misinformed by someone else who was selfish."
Quiet from the back seat. I looked in the rear-view mirror. She was thinking.
"If you respect others' beliefs, you won't feel the need to do something selfish. People are people. Does that make sense?"
I think she just wanted me to shut up.
WE DO NOT KNOW AT THIS TIME specifically why someone planted bombs at the Boston Marathon. It was obviously a terrorist event because it was obviously done to cause terror. But these days, everyone assumes terrorists are from other countries who are motivated by Islam.
While that could be the case, the perpetrator also could have been a white guy. From America. Who loved America until a black man became president and wanted to see that black president's response to the bombing so white people like him could criticize the president and post things on facebook about "In God We Trust" being taken off coins by the black president after he's done funding homosexual marriages with tax dollars generated by mandatory abortion booths at the mall.
Of course, it might have been a random act of lunacy.
The bombs could have been planted under a number of circumstances, but each could only have been conjured by sadness.
Kay has not asked about the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. If she does, the same response will apply.
In order to have light, there must be darkness.
In order to have comfort, there must be pain.
To know good, one must know bad; to know happiness, one must know sorrow.
The world is full of evil, Kay. Do not allow it to consume your heart; do not let it distract your soul.
For the sun always shines on a cloudy day.
Be moved by all that is sunny.
I don't try to explain tragedies. I try to teach my daughter how to rise above them.