This comes from a column that appeared in USA Today four years ago:
Last year, we turned our red wagon into a replica Conestoga wagon with real sewn canvas over wooden ribs, wooden water barrels, quarter horse — and, yes, plastic rifles. It was a big hit and the kids won first prize for their age group. The celebration, however, was short lived. As soon as one mother spotted the toy rifles inside the wagon, she pulled her screaming children out of the event, announcing that she would not “expose them” to guns.In a post-mortem email to the column:
I later received an e-mail from another parent that this covered wagon was no “innocent fantasy” since I must be aware “what guns were used for in the Old West?” It turns out that my kids were apparently rehearsing the genocidal massacre of Native Americans.
The theme, which has mushroomed into the zero tolerance movement following the massacre at Columbine in classic knee-jerk reaction, isn’t any more new to me than it was to the writer of that column, Jonathan Turley, who described himself as “the very model of the risk-averse parent,” “overly obsessive and doting.”
This theme is no stranger in my house. As I carried my newborn son through the door on the way home from the hospital, I was informed that he would never know what it feels to hold a weapon. He would play with wooden blocks and puzzles, organic materials that would broaden his imagination. I let it slide at the time, as no sane husband argues with a post-partum wife.
Today, my home is filled with weapons. While we have the usual assortment of nerf guns and water pistols, I speak mainly of swords. Not those plastic pirate cutlasses, or sticks dolled up to look like swords, but real ones. My baby boy grew up to be a fencer, and we have quite a large arsenal of épées, with a mash of other types of swords thrown in for good measure. I play armourer many an evening, repairing or fine tuning his weapons for competition so that his weapons work better than his opponent’s.
Make no mistake about it; these are weapons. They are designed to be safe, provided one wears the proper protective clothing and equipment, and the hand that holds the weapon is reasonably adept. But accidents happen, and occasionally it’s painful or worse. Regardless, the entire purpose of their use is to engage in fencing warfare and win. They have no other purpose.
What is astonishing to me is how detached the zero-tolerance movement is not just from research but also from reality. One Mothering magazine article advised mothers on how to respond to their boys found playing with guns or swords. The writer suggested that parents take their boys aside and “emphasize healing” and show their boys how to make “magical medicines.” The magazine also advised that parents could also “transform guns into magical wands” and “channel energy into other games.” My personal favorite, however, was that parents should stop such games and have the kids play “peacemaking” by creating “a roundtable with a mediator and write a peace accord.”
I assume these notions come from some well-intended woman, or the most beta-ish male ever, because they reflect no reality I’ve ever seen, in my own experience or in my observations of others. No little boy wants to put aside their gun to make “magical medicines.” That anyone, woman or man, would urge such a thing is laughable. That’s not the way boys roll.
My son is no more in training as a serial killer than Turley’s sons. He’s a great student, deeply involved in community service, who happens to be very good with an epee. Ironically, he might be suspended for pointing a finger gun at another student, but he’s applauded for his skill with an epee, having won every honor high school fencing has to offer.
Had my son decided that he wanted to dance ballet, I would have happily spent my evenings repair toe shoes. But he chose fencing instead. According to the earth mothers, I’m fostering violence by allowing this. They’re wrong. And I reject the notion that there is any shame in my son’s “violent” choice.
It’s long been a curiosity to me that women can openly promote feminism without any serious backlash for their flagrant elevation of female virtues to the exclusion of men. Being a man, and having male interests, isn’t an inherent evil, and their attempt to make it so is, well, a joke amongst men. Sure, it’s often a tacit joke, since we don’t want to fight a ridiculous battle, and we enjoy the company of women for other purposes, so we pretend to agree and sublimate truth in an abundance of discretion.
But make no mistake that we’re letting women get away with this just to keep the peace, not because we agree with it. Sure, there are some namby-pamby men who wallow in their emotions, but most of us, even the betas, do it just to get along. Can you imagine the outrage that would follow a CLE entitled Men and the Law, How to be the Masculine Lawyer you always wanted to be? Yet there’s a Women and the Law CLE available at every turn.
Boys will be boys. What else should they be? It doesn’t reflect their future as murderers or their adoration of the slaughter of native Americans. They’re just boys doing what boys like to do, now and always. And the most vibrant dreams of earth mothers that games of “peacemaker” will make boys grow up more like girls isn’t just an absurd fantasy, but an assault on the nature of males.
And if that’s not enough, there are girls who fence epee too, and they can be just as ferocious on the strip as any boy. No apolgies for them either.
Update: I’ve just been informed that today, March 8, 2011, is International Women’s Day. Women everywhere are holding events to celebrate themselves.