Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Toy Guns

This last weekend, I served as the Party Bus Dad for a minivan full of boys. My little guy was turning 10, and rather than one event, he wanted a smorgasbord of a party, a great heaping tapas plate of fun.

Stop number one on this multi-event delight involved unloading my bad self and six fired-up pre-teens at the local laser tag emporium. Both of my boys, and their dad, are most fond of laser tag. It's a hoot. The tactics and strategery of simulated combat are exhilarating. It doesn't hurt that we're not half-bad at it. Of the 45 players in the arena that afternoon, my oldest son rocked the highest score, my little guy came in slightly behind, and yours truly...who specializes in lower-scoring base defense...came in third. Our team, "Team Green," managed to completely rout our opponents. Of course, they were mostly panicked clusters of eight year olds whose grasp of close quarters combat tactics were woefully lacking, but why let a little detail like that dilute the glory? Hoooah!

That fascination with things martial extends deeply into the games my boys play. And, frankly, the games I play. Unlike many progressive parents, who hover and micromanage and try to get their boys to play with happy homemaker sets, I'm quite happy to have my pups charging around with giant squirtguns, or firing Nerf projectiles at one another. I, too, was once a boy. So long as they're aware of the difference between toys and real weapons, aware of the deep difference in cost between play combat and the blood and muck of real war, they know what they need to know.

I do wonder, though, just how many Americans grasp that difference. That wondering particularly applies to members of our Tea Party movement. One of the more dominant threads in American conservatism is the Second Amendment thread. It asserts, as was the intent of the folks who wrote that portion of our constitution, that unrestricted ownership of firearms is necessary if citizen soldiers are to be prepared to defend our nation. Every once in a while, one of the more...um...earnest folks who are affiliated with that movement will darkly grumble about the need for us to have that Glock in our dresser drawer to throw off the yoke of tyrants.

I understand that desire to defend the homestead and the nation. I also understand that fascination with weapons. What I can't quite understand is how you can 1) support gun ownership on the basis of the second amendment and 2) be utterly and uncritically supportive of our current approach to national security. America's warfighters are, by the standards of militaries throughout history, without parallel. Our immense and sprawling defense budget may include a whole bunch of waste, but it has also produced the single most ferocious fighting force in human history.

Because of our engagement in Afghanistan, that budget is increasingly dedicated to developing tools for use against insurgent populations and local militia. Sophisticated drones and Joint Direct Attack Munitions are really rather effective at disposing of little groups of human beings bearing small arms. We're a very short step away from a revolution in military robotics, one that is being actively funded and pursued and could be the biggest game-changer since iron swords sliced through bronze shields like they was buttah. The fantasy of local militia being able to put up any kind of meaningful resistance against an unfettered mid-21st century army is just that. A fantasy.

What I just can't quite figure out is how folks who ferociously proclaim that they own small arms because they don't trust the government to provide health care are simultaneously eager to provide that same government with the most impressive destructive tools in the history of humankind.

Human beings are strange, strange creatures.