Kids Got Guns: Selling War Young in NYC

I’ve always been afraid of guns. Something about the ability to take a life in an instant. But seeing a gun on a street cop is pretty different from being surrounded by them. That’s what happened to me this weekend.

Family was in town and Fleet Week is sold as a family event. Navy ships pull into Manhattan’s west side and civilians board them for a tour of the latest in US military might — from VR simulations to machine guns to choppers and tanks. Heck, they even had an Osprey.

As much as I dislike weapons, I probably could have brushed it all off if it weren’t for the kids. When I saw a 5-year-old ogling bombs as we boarded, I got annoyed. When we got to the deck and whole families were taking turns smiling alongside a Huey-mounted minigun, my breakfast started coming up. When we got into the belly of the ship and I was surrounded by kids younger than 10 scurrying up and down on tanks and trucks, putting on helmets, and manning high caliber guns (all while parents cheered) I decided to cash out.

Nothing like a real war to take the fun out of a little military fantasy. Nothing like single digit kids acting out military fantasies on real military gear to make you full-on disgusted with the thinly veiled recruiting exercise that is Fleet Week. Get ’em young!

Thankfully, Iraq Veterans Against the War staged a counter-event that brought the reality of war to the city in more honest fashion. And Joe shot a beautiful photo of it, too. Wish I’d been there instead. But, then, real war ain’t family fun.

We last talked about Fleet Week in Jet Fumes and Frosted Flakes.

4 Responses to “Kids Got Guns: Selling War Young in NYC”

  1. 1 Aparna Pappu

    That sucks. Thats the problem when war is in some foreign land and fought by soldiers who are not from the middle and upper middle class families taking their kids to NYC;s museums on their weekends, by politicians who tell us that we have to keep shopping or the terrorists have won. But even that does not waive the ultimate responsibility of parents who ought to be telling their kids that these deadly weapons are no laughing matter.
    Want escapism? Try the Museum of Natural History’s exhibit on all creatures mythical and all things from the land of imagination – so much cooler than a kid practising on a machine gun.

  2. 2 Jason

    Wow. Well said! I bet you’re spot on that there’s a significant class difference in the perception of the war. It’s easier to ignore when you don’t know anyone over there. And the “volunteer” armed service sure ain’t overflowing with rich kids.

  3. 3 Holger

    I am from germany (…sorry for my bad english)but I spend 8 days in NYC with my girlfriend during the fleet week. We were also on the USS Wasp. And I agree with you: First of all it was real fun. You can touch all that guns you know from hollywood action movies only, sit behind a real minigun in a real chopper, or in the belly of a M1A1 Abrahams tank, talking to real marines or navy seals. But than I start to think about it…maybe someone was killed by the weapon you hold right in your hand? Maybe the tank was used to kill someone? Maybe the marine right next to you killed a human…it was a strange feeling. No fun anymore and nothing for kids, and maybe nothing for adults too.

    It can be that sometimes war is necessary, but it is not necessary to make an family event of it and to show a 10year old boy how a .50 cal. machine gun works.

  4. 4 william caraher

    It is certainly not a good thing to glorify any kind of war but the fact that people continue to be critical of the same armed forces that allows you to sit home and say what ever you like is also disturbing. This is meant to honor and thank the men and women who protect this country and not a platform to point out how bad a message they send to the kide. The American soldier through out history has proven to be the most humane but that would never make it to the pages of extreme left wing media.

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