Monday, December 24, 2012

Little Boys With Real Machine Guns

I still remember the Christmas when the local Walgreen's had a window display of toys including a realistic wooden model of the machine guns John Wayne  toted in his U.S. Marines movies.

My friend Ron Ellis and I really coveted those things. We had outgrown Santa Clause and one of us remembered his Mom saying those "awful guns" were overpriced,  so neither of us was particularly optimistic.  But we'd walk past that window display every day thinking how great it would be to run through the woods with such a real-looking weapon.  The imaginary "Japs" lurking in the weeds wouldn't stand a chance.

The store cut prices by half on its unsold toys on the day before Christmas, and our parents relented and we got our guns.  Couldn't wait to go out to the woods and hide behind trees and shoot "Japs."  Did so for a day or two, swaggering like the Duke,  feeling like big shots, tough guys, but ere long the simple noisemaker on the wooden guns broke, and we had to shout "blam blam  blam" or something when we shot "Japs," and pretty soon it wan't such great fun having wooden machine guns, and our killing sprees ended.

That was my last infatuation with guns. Same for most of my friends.  The war to end all wars ended, Johnny came marching home, there were blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover and real-life sports heroes replaced John Wayne.  And then, one day, the little boys of Harrison Street were young men, striving wherever young men strove those days to be ready to deal with the Real World.

In the Real World you learned to respect the rights of others, including those of different colors or creeds. You learned to respect the law, and obey it, and you learned how to work to change the law if it was unjust or unfair.  You learned about things like perspective and priorities and equality.  You learned about prejudice and hate and bullying.

And you learned there were those who never did grow up, who never did outgrow the coveting of guns, whose insecurity required phallic trappings and bullying comrades.  They tended to gather together, these little boys of middle age, and bring their sons and nephews with them, in places like the National Rifle Association, and ad hoc militias, at shooting ranges and in the great outdoors, toting their heat. Sometimes they called themselves "hunters" and"outdoorsmen" but in reality they were would-be murderers who mostly did their killing in fantasies.  A few  -- far, far too many -- fulfilled their fantasies against real people, in shopping malls, parking lots, churches, government buildings, army posts and schools.

Fort Hood.  Columbine.  Sandy Hook.  Blacksburg. 

From their intellectual puberty, these monsters of arrested development shouted their tortured Second Amendment logic, their posturing of patriotism, their utter nonsense about their "rights" to have and to use firearms, until even right wing propaganda sheets like Rupert Murdoch's New York Post called them "nuts." On the front page!

"Nuts" they are, but dangerous ones.

Ron Ellis, wherever you are, I'm grateful that we grew up.  Merry Christmas.

Less Than Two Weeks

After Sandy Hook

WEBSTER, N.Y. — An ex-con set a car and a house ablaze in his lakeside neighborhood to lure firefighters, then opened fire on them, killing two, engaging in a shootout with police and committing suicide while several homes burned. Authorities used an armored vehicle to evacuate the area.

The gunman fired at the four firefighters when they arrived shortly after 5:30 a.m. at the blaze in Webster, a suburb of Rochester on Lake Ontario, town Police Chief Gerald Pickering said. The first police officer who arrived chased the suspect and exchanged gunfire, authorities said.

Police say he lay in wait outdoors for the firefighters' arrival, then opened fire probably with a rifle and from atop an earthen berm, Pickering said.

"It does appear it was a trap," he said.

Peace on Earth

Good Will to Men


  1. Pianist: I, too, have similar childhood memories. By the age of 8 or 9, I had amassed the largest army of toy based trucks, tanks, and half tracks with the little plastic dummy soldiers to maneuver 'em to victory after victory.

    By the time I retired them and headed off to high school, I was presented with middle aged men (and women!) who had served as models for my plastic army of the early 50's. I'm talking about my teachers, many of whom were the veterans of WWII. Some of them bore the scars of the WWII battles they had waged. There was our football coach McMahon, with his gimpy leg and limp, leading our classmates into weekly warfare on Friday night gridiron battles. Mr. Ely, with one good eye. And then there was Ms. Ornelas, a pilot during the war, whose math concepts still flew over our heads in the 50's and 60's. Our one-armed Spanish teacher, Ms. Tonello. While we didn't know for sure how she'd lost her appendage, it wasn't difficult to imagine the war had had a "hand in it" based on the other wounded vets teaching us.

    But from the battles I'd witnessed my plastic soldiers endure, yet win time and again, I suspected we were perhaps a bunch of teenagers among some very heroic people. But by the 60's when it came my time to serve in our then current (and one of our endless) wars --Vietnam, I had become cynical. The plastic soldiers of my youth, so brave, so heroic, had by then become merely expendable plastic pieces of hegemonic hubris.

    How appropriate that our nation presently embroiled in endless warring (for mostly hopeless, losing causes), should increasingly embrace its passion for guns, to protect us from violence "over there" and now growing atrocities by gun nuts over here. We're a nation deeply divided, desperate to protect our guaranteed rights for all the wrong reasons. But, hey, it's the "American Way!" right?

  2. Like so many of my generation that loved the outdoors and hunting, I grew up starting with a BB gun. I was a great shot being able to shoot a bird in flight. By the time I was in high school, I was mature enough to know the respect for hunting and life.
    1). Don't shoot an animal, fish, etc. unless I was going to eat what I caught/hunted
    2). Don't shoot unless you intend to eat the meat
    3). Value life
    Todays youth grow up parented by video games and 'reality' tv. They do not know respect for life...even their own. Drugs are rampant in our schools and now the answer is to arm our teachers and principals? What have we come to? Divorce / non-commital sex are rampant as are children without a father figure. Say what you want about the failings of Christianity or the church, bot the foundation of family needs to be reinstilled.

    Ultimately the problem is not the gun! It is the person behind the gun! Without fixing family values, BOTH parents parenting our children (not games and tv), and showing our youth we as adults are mature enough to fix our financial mess we created and get people back to work, then nothing will change. We have to change the entitlement culture.