My youngest son turned 9 yesterday. We had a party for him with 10 or so of his friends from school and church – 2 hours in a room full of 8-10 year olds! Aaarrrrgggghhhhh. It was torture -- sort of. Some of those kids are NOT well-behaved! Some of them clearly lack respect for adults and a sense of propriety, and you have to wonder about their up-bringing. But, we lived through it, and the kids all had fun.
One of the gifts my son received was a “dart gun” that shoots foam darts. It has the look of an Uzzi (or so it seems to my non-trained eyes), and can hold eight darts at a time. You can shoot them off rapid-fire – about one per second if you’re fast. It has a rotating loading mechanism sort of like a Gatling Gun. Oh, and the darts glow in the dark! My son is thrilled with this toy. I have to admit it -- it's fun. We'll have fun shooting at characters on the TV screen (the darts will stick to the glass).
I played with guns growing up – played with toy guns, had a BB gun and a pellet gun (CO2 powered) – and later hunted. I bought my own .20 gauge shotgun and received an heirloom .22 caliber rifle from my grandpa. It had the name of one of my uncles carved into the stock, and I carved my own name into it as well. That .22 is the only one I still have – the shotgun was stolen years ago (I still fear a knock on the door late at night by police officers there to arrest me for a shooting with a gun registered to me! I reported the theft, but still. . . .).
I loved hunting, but mostly for the outdoors – tramping in the woods. I stopped hunting when I got married – my wife couldn’t stand the thought that I might shoot Bambi. (But, ask her about her attempts to shoot Mickey!)
So, I’m not anti-weapon. Neither is my wife, who grew up in Texas playing “Cowboys and Indians,” etc., complete with mock gun battles. Neither of us has turned out to be a mass murderer or a child abuser. But we’re both a little concerned with our youngest son’s fascination with weapons.
I wonder what role mock violence plays in the violence of our society – and in the violence of individual lives. I’m sure there are no clear answers to that question. But clearly, lives of people surrounded by violence tend toward violence.
Here’s an example. Tony Lagouranis’ duties in Iraq included the interrogation of prisoners at various locations, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. The article found here describes his experiences and his fears about how what he did and witnessed being done to prisoners will affect him.
Human beings are creatures of habit. Even those of us who abhor “ruts” for our lives have habits of daily activity. We wake up each morning and know where to find our toothbrushes, combs, underwear, shampoo, and countless other things – most of which we could and perhaps to) find with our eyes shut. We go through these daily functions without thinking – to the point that we may not notice we’ve done them: have you ever forgotten while in the shower whether you’ve washed your hair? You think about it, and you just really can’t remember whether or not you’ve done it. Then you do it again, and perhaps the action itself reminds you that you’d just done it. We just do these things by sheer habit, without thinking.
What about how we respond to annoyances around us each day? Do we build up habits of action that we perform without even thinking? Habits of anger, retribution and revenge? What if my “small” habits shape how I would respond to a real crisis situation?
The good news is that I am not enslaved to my habits. Habits of action can be changed and even conquered, but not without doing some deliberate thinking about them and conscious planning of how we will respond to specific situations. The cycle of child abuse can be brought to a halt – we are not enslaved by the pattern of behavior we learned from our parents (though certainly it can be an incredibly strong influence). Mr. Lagouranis may have difficulty overcoming in his personal interactions the abuse he committed and witnessed in Iraq, but it is still possible.
What about my 9-year old’s fascination with weapons? We’ve explained to him that as Christians we believe killing is wrong, and so he is not to point his dart gun at any person for any reason. And he can’t shoot the dog, either. He is, however, allowed to shoot at Oprah when she’s on TV. Oh, and Precious Moments figurines are always "in season."