Monday, September 20, 2010

Guns Germs and (no Steel)

I apologize for my title. Stolen from a fabulous book which I did not read but heard excerpts from as my much wiser husband read it. The two things weighing on my mind right now are guns and germs. I could not think of anything steel related hat would work, thus not using the full title.

So when someone says 'Boy Scout’, what so you picture? Probably an eagerly helpful young man helping old ladies across streets and listening respectfully to authorities. Okay, maybe my picture is a little too idealistic (I find this gets me into all sorts of trouble). But imagine my shock when we pulled up to the campsite for Eli and Jeremy’s debut as Boy Scout and Leader and a string of about eight seven to nine year olds push past me, running full tilt, voices raised and guns aimed.

I have been fairly adamant that I am not okay with my kids playing with guns. After having lived in a country where it was common to hear of an acquaintance being held up at gun point, having a friend’s boyfriend shot and killed and having had guns aimed at our own car, I vowed to myself that I would never handle a gun. Since then I have heard so many more stories of senseless acts of violence carried out with guns and have NEVER heard of a single story where a gun saved a life. A fellow teacher at Jeremy’s school witnessed her husband being shot and killed in front of her on the south side of Chicago, a parent of one of his best students came home and shot and killed his wife in front of their children.

Guns are a weapon for cowards. You don’t have to think to hurt or kill a person with a gun. Studies have shown that kids who play a lot of video games that use target skills are almost equally skilled at pointing and shooting a gun even if they had never held an actual one before. So why is it that so many people think that guns are an acceptable toy for young boys (or boys of any age)? Why did those parents allow their sons to bring them on a Boy Scout camping trip and then stand by and watch them carry on as they did? Were they not appalled at all? Are they so desensitized to violence that this seemed mild to them?

The stranger thing is that one Dad finally told them to put the guns away and that “Boy Scouts don’t use guns” and then several hours later they were all given awards for BB gun shooting which they had earned by going to summer camp. Are we sending mixed messages? It terrifies me to think that this is what I have signed my son up for.

Aside form the guns, these boys were just plain horrible to each other and not anything of an example that most people expect them to be. Around the morning campfire, a bunch of them ganged up on one other boy and kept calling him gay. After abut fifteen minutes of standing there hoping that someone’s parent would have the sense to stop their child, I cracked and let them have it. Then I talked to the leader and let him know that I did not want my children around these kids. (I think one of them was his own, but he still needed to know since no one else there seemed to care). The fact that all those parents could stand there and listen to their own children talking the way they were is very sad. Jeremy pointed out that using the word ‘gay’ as an insult these days is like using the ’n’ word has been for some time. Is our community SO monogamous that this kind of behavior is still tolerated??

It saddens me deeply to have learned this side of what I thought was a fabulous community we live in. Maybe I had my hopes up too high but my feeling is that if you don’t expect better of your kids, you can’t expect them to turn out to be the wonderful people you want them to be. And I don’t want my son to be a gun-toting foul-mouthed fool who builds himself up by putting others down. I want him to be a humble, respectful and thoughtful person who can have a good time without it costing another person’s dignity.

Funny thing is, the youngest boys there were the best behaved by FAR. Maybe we need to split away from the rest of the pack?

And the germs, you ask? What about the germs? Ah yes. Back to the beginning of the school year and one of my pet peeves has come around again. That being the constant reminders from the school of the three Cs of flu season (Clean your hands, Cover you Cough and Contain your illness). The first of which there is no time for in the tight school day and yet they keep pretending that it happens. It is such hypocrisy to keep posting this all over as if it matters when they know full well that they do not have time to let kids wash their hands before eating. They claim that alcohol based hand sanitizer is just as effective and is available to the kids at school. Baloney. It is not as effective. First of all it does not do much for viruses, mostly only for bacteria and then it weakens their immune systems so that they are less able to fight off illness when it does present itself AND they are less and less responsive to the antibiotics given to treat disease when needed which leads to the development of the so-called super-bugs.

I talked with a friend today who used to work with a firm that designed schools and she said that if it was a plumbing thing that is not required by code, schools will not pay the extra for it. So for example, the private school that one of my professors worked at that had a trough-style sink long enough for ten or more kids at a time to wash their hands in the hallway upon entering from the playground on their way to lunch will never happen in a public school. Too bad since we just got a new school. Apparently hand washing was not enough of a priority then.

Thankfully my daughter has a teacher who realizes this and gives each student a hand wipe before lunch. Love her! And I send my son with a wipe for his hands. We will do our best to work with the system, let’s just not pretend we are doing things we aren’t, okay?

And no steel. (told you)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Martha. Your post is so timely. I also do not want Olivia handling toy guns either. We recently had an instance where she was playing with a toy gun with some friends. The toy gun was eventually removed from play, but it still turns my stomach to think of her holding one in her little hand. I am sorry that sweet Eli was around these kids in Boy Scouts. You and I are definately on the same page when it comes to germs! It is a shame that the school will not practice what they preach about hand washing.