sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

February 11, 2013

Cotton Mather Parenting

Filed under: Bay Area politics, parenting, politics — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:59 pm

With the push for gun control under way the stories about children punished for pretend play involving guns are pouring in.  Iowahawk calls it what it is, government-sponsored and media-promoted hysteria:

Lefties are fond of lecturing (and writing books, and plays, and movies) about the famously dark days of McCarthyism, where right wing Bircher paranoiacs supposedly were looking for a ‘Red under every bed.’ I suppose to a certain extent they had a point, but the sum total impact of that brief 50′s reign of terror seems to be that a couple of Hollywood writers lost screenplay deals.

Contrast that with our new age of left wing paranoia. Now that the national boogie men are Gunnies rather than Commies, there ain’t no bed, or closet, or playground safe to hide from our brave safety crusaders. No one is above suspicion, and so holy is their cause that even crayon-scrawled representations of Demon Gun must be banned. Obviously, we have to arrest children precisely because it’s For The Children. Welcome to New Salem, with the Reverend Piers Morgan as our new Cotton Mather.

Some individuals were living this hysteria for years if not decades.  Here is last year’s advice column from J, the Bay Area Jewish weekly.   First the question:

We thought we’d skirt the issue with our pro-peace, “use your words” and gender-neutral parenting, but alas, our 4-year-old boy wants a gun.  We cringe at the thought, but can also see that he has never wanted anything else with this kind of intensity. Help! Puzzled in Piedmont (Piedmont is a tonier East Bay suburb, – ed.)

Being pro-lasting peace, pro-gun and into gender-functional parenting (I made this one up), I would advise the PIPs to think about the nature of their son’s intense emotions and question their own deeply ingrained assumptions about society.  This would be an honest thing to do because leftists profess to believe that babes have a lot to teach us about the world and that it’s always good to question received opinions.  The columnist Rachel Biale, however, issued a different verdict:

On gender issues, I advise parents to offer, as I did with my children, a full spectrum of toys and activities without gender-pegging: boys with dolls, girls with hammers, etc. I have never encountered parents flummoxed because their daughter wanted a gun. (Please let me know if your experience is different!)  I myself remember vividly how I insisted on playing soccer with the boys and wanted a bow and arrow for Lag B’Omer.  My father was a carpenter and physicist; in those days in the kibbutz you could be both. So he made me a beautifully carved bow and explained the laws of physics governing the arrow’s trajectory and speed.  I even announced in third grade that my name was now Danny and I was going to be a boy.  It lasted till fourth grade, but never in that whole period (nor before or after) did I want a gun.

All snark aside, her dad sounds cool.

I grew up in a culture where toy weapons were commonplace.  I was a girly girl, and I don’t remember myself wanting plastic guns, but I’m pretty sure I played with them every now and then.  If Robert Louis Stevenson is any authority on the subject, boys and girls do play together, often exploring marshal themes.  His absolutely cheek-pinchingly darling poem Marching Song from “A Child’s Garden of Verses” features “great commander Jane” who gayly leads the boys on a war pass.  I take it Ms. Biale’s childhood was not much different.  For one, she implied that it would had been normal for a kid in her community to ask for a toy gun.  And for another:

Our kibbutz was on the Jordanian border and guns were part of everyday life. This is still the case in Israel today. Soldiers on their way to and from home carry a gun, as do other security personnel. But when it came to raising my children here in the United States, without even noticing, I adopted the common American Jewish aversion to guns. (Jews have the lowest gun ownership rate in America.) I, too, felt very uncomfortable with the idea of my son playing with guns.

Whatever happened to multiculturalism?

I do believe boys love toy guns so much because they offer an important avenue for mastering aggression through play. Pretend combative play — cowboys and Indians, space aliens and humans, cops and robbers and superheroes armed to the teeth — is important for  the maturation and “civilizing” of boys.  Allowing opportunities  for play that channels aggressive fantasies reduces the amount of actual aggression toward other kids.

Do tell.  It probably helps to reduce the amount of inwardly aggression as well — if am to take a guess.

That said, it’s important to uphold your values and recognize when something is too uncomfortable and disturbing for you.  It’s perfectly fine to let your child know there are things you find objectionable and don’t want in your house. For example, some parents feel this way about pet rats.  We told our son: “We really, really don’t like guns.  They hurt and kill people.  We don’t want one in our house, not even a play gun.”

The antiquated United States Constitution tells us nothing about the rodents, but, for all I know, the vastly superior founding document of the European Union might have something to say on that subject.  I can see not wanting a rat, but, on the other hand, what if there is a near-extinct specie of rat, and a family gets both a male and a female vermin and tries to get them to breed?  What do we think about that?

But we did let him get a  sword. Why?  Mainly, because it didn’t make us cringe in the same way a gun did and let him deal with aggression through play.  We explained: “Swords are a bit like old tales from ‘Once upon a time.’ A long, long time ago, people used them to fight. But, nowadays, people don’t use swords to kill.” No doubt there is a bit of rationalizing here, but this offered a middle ground we could live with.  Our son, after graduating from swords to the World Wrestling Federation, abandoned these pursuits and grew into a very peaceful, unaggressive person, who does his “fighting” for justice and civil rights in the court of law.

Just about every family I know is cool with plastic swards, but wants no gun toys.  Why, what’s the difference?  One is a lethal weapon and another can shoot blanks?  Nothing against swords or wrestling, but target shooting does promote patience and concentration.

I have no idea what Ms. Biale means by “‘fighting’ for justice and civil rights in the court of law”, but countless books were written on the subject of verbal aggression in Ashkenazi diaspora.  No amount of verbal aggression absolves a man (or a woman) of the moral responsibility to defend himself, his friends and family.  And by “defend” I don’t mean “litigate”.

What does the sword-and-wrestling diet do to children anyway?  I’m not claiming to know what the youth of today think about the 2nd Amendment, but it’s useful to turn to the guardians of the illicit, namely Urban Outfitters, for clues.  Here, at Edge of the Sandbox, we don’t pretend to understand where irony ends and self-loathing begins when it comes to Urban, but the firearms-related gimmicks, currently occupying their sale racks, are hard to ignore.

Shot glasses — Get it? Get it? — are on sale for $7.99

A cooler. I don’t know about that one.

“Freeze!” ice tray is my personal favorite. On sale for 7.99, accompanied by a very interesting video

For a good measure they had a grenade decanter. Being a middle age vino, I don’t know about this one either.

Either the kids sense that guns are not as bad as their parents told them, or they are being defiant or both, but they are not indifferent to the allure of fire arms.

Here is my previous post on anti-gun agenda placement in Parents magazine.  Koch brothers, either one of you, where art though?

UPDATE: Linked by Legal Insurrection — many thanks to Professor Jacobson.

January 14, 2011

A Hipster’s Israel

Filed under: taste — Tags: , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:57 am

Today I found the January 2011 Urban Outfitters catalog in my mail box.  My first thought was that the cover model looks Israeli.

She does, doesn’t she?

I open up the catalog, and it certainly has Israeli feel to it.  I had a similar feeling before looking at Anthropologie catalog once, thinking “That must be the Dead Sea!”  Anthropologie is owned by Urban.  Wait a minute!  There is Hebrew writing all over it.

Well, not all over, but you know.

So it was shot in Israel!  And it’s noteworthy… because?  Well, I love Israel and I love fashion.  I’m even pretty well dressed… for a mom.

I suppose if art directors fancy a photo shoot in an Avant-Garde location, Tel Aviv is a logical place to go.  Tel Aviv’s White City is touted as a world capital of Bauhaus because so many buildings there were erected by German Jewish architects of Bauhaus school who fled the Holocaust for the British Mandate Palestine.

Yep, that’s Tel Aviv.

Not all pictures were shot in the White City.  Some of the backdrops are only interesting because they are so nondescript.  I no longer pretend to understand the Urban aesthetic.  When I shopped there a decade or so ago, I thought of Anthropologie as the grown up Urban Outfitters.  Then I thought of Urban Outfitters as poor man’s Anthropologie.  Now I just don’t get Urban.  Whenever my husband catches a glimpse of their catalog, he says: “Are they trying to make the models look gross?”  Why, of course they do!  I suppose their photography is some branch of lomography, but even then I don’t get it.  The clothes… I’m just lost.  I find the 80′s-90′s rayon revival that they are championing at this moment as charming as 70′s polyester.

Urban caught a bit of flack last decade for a JAP t-shirt (undeservingly, IMO) and “anti-war” scarf.  When “Motorcycle Diaries” came out Anthropologie was selling a book about the romantic Che.  I hear that the company is owned by a conservative.  If that’s true, the management obviously keeps its politics out of its business.

No Israeli photo shoot would be complete without a gratuitous disrespectful picture styled after an Orthodox woman.  The blouse looks both unflattering and uncomfortable.  There is no way I’m buying it.  But aren’t we clever?

Showing her wrist, the slut!

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