Monday, May 21, 2012

Guns or Puppies?

I was in Wal*Mart today observing a mother interacting with her little boy, who was about four or five. The boy had already tossed a toy gun into their shopping cart and was now clutching a stuffed animal. The mother insisted the child could only have one toy, and of course, the boy wanted both. I counted at least 10 refrains of “Which one do you want, the gun or the puppy?” Each time I heard her rogitate the question, it sounded more surreal.

If I had a five-year-old child, would I want him running around the house pretending to kill people or cuddling up in bed with a plush puppy that might become his new “friend” and security blanket? Has life changed so much that, instead of sending our kids to bed with a stuffed animal, we now feel the need to substitute a gun to provide them with a sense of bedtime security? Will they grow up to sleep with a real gun under their pillows?

“Which one do you want, the gun or the puppy?” haunted me. Puppies are cute and soft and cuddly; they represent love. What do guns represent? Anger, rage, hatred, violence, and fear. What subliminal message is this choice implanting?

In the end, of course, it is the parents’ decision. It’s just as easy to say, “No, I won’t buy you the gun; do you want me to buy you the puppy?” How many times a day do we each face a ‘guns versus puppies’ choice? Someone cuts in front of you, perhaps unintentionally. Do you respond in a calm polite manner, or, as I witnessed in the Wal*Mart parking lot, with a string of angry profanities? That driver, I assume, didn’t get the puppies growing up.

Kids come into this world as blank slates. Their attitudes, prejudices, and responses to stimuli are learned behaviors. They learn from the people around them – peers, teachers, clergy, and family. You are a tremendous influence in the lives of the children around you. Use that power for good.

Besides, plastic guns inevitably break a few weeks later and end up in the garbage; a stuffed animal lasts indefinitely.

Oh,  yes. The little boy? He chose the gun. The world really is going To Hell In A Handbasket. Bet you thought I couldn't work in a book plug, huh?

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