Monday, May 09, 2005

In Defense of War Toys

My boy turned four a couple of weeks ago and he received no fewer than three light sabers for his birthday. He already owned one, so by the end of the day his arsenal consisted of four sabers. He also owns over two hundred of those cheap plastic toy soldiers, along with four military jets, four helicopters and two plastic tanks. In addition, he owns a plastic armored vehicle that smells of gasoline. And, finally, he owns at least a half dozen toy guns, including a little M-16, and an UZI. Oops, I almost forgot the swords; he has several. These blades are deeply notched and heavily scarred from the ferocious battles we wage. In short, my boy is more heavily armed than France.

Unfortunately, when certain of his friends come over to play these toys have to be hidden because their mothers (and in one case, their father) don’t approve of their children playing with war toys. Some nights I slip into bed only to find that a veritable arsenal of plastic weaponry has been stashed under my covers because my wife has inexplicably decided that my side of the bed is the best hiding place.

But why on earth shouldn’t children play with war toys? Frankly, I think that playing with such toys teaches children many positive things. First of all, they teach patriotism and history. When I was a child playing with my plastic guns or toy soldiers I always pretended that I was fighting the Nazis or the Johnny Rebs. These early imaginary conflicts sparked an interest in history that has continued unabated to this day. When my own boy plays with war toys I channel his play in a historical direction in the hopes that a similar interest will take root.

The ban on playing with war toys is, for many proponents of the ban, based on the idea that weapons are inherently bad. But this is not the case. Weapons won our independence from the British, weapons won the freedom slaves in this country and weapons put an end to Hitler’s murderous regime. In nearly every armed conflict weapons are used in a just cause by at least one of the combatants. When a marine shoots an insurgent driving a bomb-loaded car he has done something noble with his rifle. Distinctions need to be made. Children shouldn’t be taught that weapons are evil. They should be taught only that certain uses of weapons are evil.

Children should be taught that the use of arms can be a good an glorious thing.

If I someday die a Menendez-style death, I take all this back.

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