Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The international day of children and guns

Today is the International Day of Children, June 1st. It's a nice holiday, sadly not celebrated in the US as it is in Europe. Anyway, to celebrate, I took Son to the Intrepid Museum. Since it was Fleet Week in the city, the USS Iwo Jima was anchored in the NYC piers right next to the Intrepid. The really nice guard at the front of the Intrepid museum told me that visiting the Iwo Jima was free (vs the $24 to go on the Intrepid??), plus the Iwo Jima is a live, fully functioning ship, so I immediately swiveled the stroller in that direction. Well, let me tell you--it was spectacular! That ship was humongous.

It had a whole bunch of terrestrial vehicles inside (like trucks, diggers, some shooting-looking thingies, tanks, humvees, more trucks, ginormous multi-terrain carriers, and what have you). Son looked quite smug on a tank. It also had a whole different section with boats, bigger boats and mini ships.

Then we went to the aircraft area, which had a bunch of helicopters of any possible variety you can imagine. Son was in helicopter heaven. Mommy was also feeling quite nicely since a pleasant, uniform-clad officer was making some efforts to flirt with her.

Unfortunately, the visit to the USS Iwo Jima disturbed me as well. The ship was full of school groups of fairly young children. The Marines had weapons stations to show people their rifles. Naturally, the kids wanted to see them and so I stood and watched little girls holding massive rifles and Marines explaining to them how to shoot them. On one hand, I understand that is a form of recruiting for the future soldiers of America. On the other hand, however, I could

not stop but be reminded of the horrifying images of the Children of Conflict in Sierra Leone. Perhaps I am over thinking this. I know it is natural curiosity on the kids' part to want to hold a gun in such circumstances. But after overhearing a very excited girl ask one Marine, "Can I hold your rifle?" I think that, in times like these where school shootings have become so horrifyingly commonplace, we should all be very, very careful about the kind of excitement we create around guns. Peace!

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