No War Toys Redux

Peace & Security17 Jun 2010Richard Register

I went to a movie the other night and – my mistake – got there on time: I had to sit through ten minutes of ads, plus four reminders to turn your cell phone off, then previews that went on and on. What’s with this relentless over the top violence? Does everything have to be blown up, glass shattered, blood spattered? What about all those violent video games sucking up hundreds of billions of hours of humanity’s time? Couldn’t something more positive, productive, non-violent and creative hold our attention?

Shortly before Fourth of July 1965, when I was 21 years old I was driving through Los Angeles where I lived at the time. The American War in Vietnam was beginning to really kick up: napalm to the grass hut villages. I was in a neighborhood with more flags on lawns than most. Across the block-long continuous turf, beneath the fluttering red, white and blue, alligator crawls a child about five dressed to kill. He had pistol on his belt on one side, canteen on the other, full battle dress and a toy machine gun. A few weeks later I started a group called No War Toys to look into whether on not this was, shall we say, healthy for children and other living things.

I wanted to know if training for the acceptance of war and violence started in the informal environment of home. Or was it as some psychiatrists said a great way to “get out aggressions,” implying everything ever after was peace and flowers.

I didn’t have that much against toy weapons, having carved some out of wood when I was about that age, but I did have my suspicions that war in fact wasn’t such good fun. My conclusion was that I wasn’t against playing war after all, but for playing it right.

“I want to go next door and play with Howie.” “Sorry, you killed him yesterday.” “That was just play.” “Yeah, but if you want to play war right, you can’t see him for the rest of the month.” “But that’s not fair.” “You think war is? Oh and by the way you can’t go out at all today because you got wounded too, remember. Grounded. And you think you have it bad, do you know about the vets in the VA hospital who will be there for the rest of their lives with their lower jaw and a couple legs missing?” Ah yes, a teachable moment!

Mainly, with all the wonderful things to learn, skills to be proud of and a world in distress to save, what’s with the awesome waste of time?