A Weapon in the Hands of Children (Update)

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. 

20 thoughts on “A Weapon in the Hands of Children (Update)

  1. mirriam

    We don’t have toy guns per se, but even at 3.5 everything becomes a gun (or a laser, lasers are very, very popular). While I don’t have any intention of going out and buying toy guns (a battle I’m certain I’ll lose) I have every intention of teaching my boys how to shoot guns. Mostly because I think it is really fun.

    And I think the issue really is nature. My generation was taught that it’s nurture so we think we can beat the boy out of them. We can’t. They are just different.

    The morning I was set to have the kids my littlest brother asked me what I thought we were having (we did it the old fashioned way and didn’t find out before). I said “two boys, because I have no idea what to do with them.” What I do is leave the room when they are wrestling and let daddy take over. He thinks it’s good fun. Good for them. I’ll go watch a movie where crap blows up.

  2. John Burgess

    Surely you mean a ‘zeta male’. Beta is far too macho for that sort of attitude.

    Boys will be boys, contrary to the magical thinking of some. Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate does a good job in explaining the how/why/what of the current nature/nurture debate and how we’ve gone down the wrong fork in the road in so much social policy. It’s worth a read.

  3. Keith Lee

    I wrestled in school and have done martial arts since I was 18 years old. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. While my son is only 18 months old, I fully intend on putting him on the mats as soon as is available. (That being said, I’ve already taught him how to sprawl)

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with combat sports and competition. They are healthy outlets of aggression for children (and adults). To suggest otherwise is naive and out of touch with reality.

  4. SHG

    You’re alive? I wondered what happened to you. Busy teaching your kid that tushy grab thing?

  5. Zac Cloud

    I definitely can relate to what’s been said here.
    Against all of my no-violence, weapons-are-bad upbringing, I’ve started to get into competitive pistol shooting…and yet I can’t tell anyone because they presume I must be some sort of crazed neo-conservative planning to start a militia. As it turns out, I’m just an Obama-voting liberal who enjoys shooting guns at pieces of steel.

  6. Keith Lee

    That, and preparing for and taking the February Bar.

    I decided that blogging, etc should take a back seat (read: completely ignored) during my Bar prep. I might be crazy, but blogging/tweeting/etc didn’t really seem that significant in comparison to passing the Bar the first time. Now that it’s (hopefully) done with, I’m making my way back to the “blawgoshpere.”

    Anything significant happen in the past two months? Social media ninjas revolutionize the practice of law while authentically engaging with clients or anything?

  7. SHG

    As should be obvious from my authentic engagement with you, everything is different now.  I hope they included a section on the bar exam (multistate) about branding, SEO and effective marketing.

  8. Marty D.

    Just imagine. Every liberal and moderate takes up competitive shooting and then joins the NRA.

  9. Rumpole

    Might I suggest a short story by Saki:
    “The Toys of Peace”

    See Wikipedia:
    Rather than giving her young boys gifts of toy soldiers and guns, their mother instructs her brother to give the children “peace toys” as an Easter present. When the packages are opened, young Bertie shouts “It’s a fort!” and is disappointed when his uncle replies “It’s a municipal dust-bin”. The boys are initially baffled as to how to obtain any enjoyment from models of a school of art and a public library, or from little toy figures of John Stuart Mill, poetess Felicia Hemans, and astronomer Sir John Herschel. Youthful inventiveness finds a way, however.

  10. Catherine Mulcahey

    This post brought up a couple of memories.

    My mother fenced in college in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. I remember her talking about how much she enjoyed it. She was one of the most peaceful people I’ve ever known.

    My first year in law school, my cub scouts were doing some kind of knights of the round table project. Our back yard was full of little boys in cardboard armor with swords made of paint stirrers. I heard a loud smack and my son yelled “That’s a tort!”

  11. Kathleen Casey

    I don’t give a snap of my fingers for IWD. I wish there were an IMD so I could participate in their celebrations.

    Remind me to show you the scar near my widow’s peak one of these years, a souvenir of one of our rock wars. My little buddies and me, long long ago.

  12. Dan Hull

    I was an early subscriber to Ms. Magazine, which lost its Mojo about 10 years out of gate. I wish I’d never read it; it taught little except rhetoric and Gloria’s take names/kick ass “methods”. The many educated secure/non-OCD/non-psychotic truly feminine and strong women I know–most are not lawyers–think the Women’s Movement sharted all over its own Kitchen Floor a long time ago.

    I appreciate the steps which need to be made in other countries. History is on their side–so I hope women in those places do not abuse the power they’ll soon have. Most westerners have already screwed that pooch.

    In meantime, how about an international celebration of Winos, Midgets and Waterheads?

    BTW, Turley never paid up for killing my pet Boa “Big Jack” at the RC. I’ll visit him soon.

  13. Mike

    If I have a daughter she will shoot guns and learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – same as any future sons. Not because those are “manly” activities by definition, but because self-sufficiency is something every human should seek.

    Anyhow, feminists are going to learn the downside of a society without males. They are already feeling the burn in the sexual marketplace, where there are far too few males in supply. Thus, alpha males dominate the sexual market place greater than at any time in U.S. history.

    More tragically, unfortunately, is that a society with gelded men won’t be able to defend itself from other societies. The Rape of Berlin is a stark example of what happens when an invading Army reaches a manless city.

    I realize that we are Americans, and thus are special….But with a $14 trillion national debt, a Weimar Republic, hyper-inflated society isn’t going to be pretty. With high crime rates, who will protect wives and daughters? Will it be today’s average American male – who even if he felt so inclined, would lack the ability?

    Yeah, yeah, I must be wrong. We are special, and thus things like hyperinflation, unwinnable wars (let alone an invasion), and tyrannical governments arising from chaose are impossibilities. Narcissism as national policy FTW.

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