Heroism, imagination, cop-outs and cupcakes

At what point do we actually interfere with children’s imaginations when we tell them what they can and can’t do with weapon-related games and toys? Kids grow up playing Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robbers, superheroes and bad guys; they play with water guns, plastic and foam swords, and some are even cool enough to have a Spiderman-web-shooting hand. It’s just a part of childhood —it is imagination at work.

Children see things through much more innocent eyes than teenagers and adults. They generally are more interested in adventure than casualty. They mean no harm with the playing of these games and the use of these toy objects. Typically, they realize that what they are doing is just a game. They can separate fiction from reality, and in most cases, they grow up just fine, without the desire to harm others.

We can’t blame them for loving these things—they are what America, for better or for worse, is built on, this form of rugged heroism. They like the adventure, but they also like the heroic aspect. If you tell them they can’t like playing these games and using these toys, then really you are telling them to everything that is and has been American media for countless generations.

Then you are also telling them to stay away from American culture in general. So much of what we consume is based on the “good guy” winning; this motif can be found in everything from the books they read in school to the principles our society is built upon to Disney movies.

I grew up playing these games and using these toys, and so did many others I know. We turned out just fine and are able to differentiate reality from fiction. In fact, the kids that I knew with the most problems after childhood were the ones not allowed to engage in these activities.

It is for this reason that I find it unsettling how quickly schools interfere with children’s imaginations simply because of what happened at Sandy Hook. Let’s just keep in mind that it was a 20-year-old, legally recognized adult who massacred 26 people, not a elementary school kid playing games.

Over the past few months, there have been incidences that range from suspensions for kids drawing guns and grenades to a kid pretending to throw an imaginary grenade. I’d say in all of these cases, reprimanding the students was a gross overreaction. But the latest may be the worst.

In Michigan, nine-year-old Hunter Fountain wanted to celebrate his birthday with some homemade cupcakes. Just like many little boys, he wanted to decorate them with something “cool,” so he chose to decorate them with one of his favorite toys— little toy soldiers. As soon as he walked through the door and school principal Susan Wright saw them, she confiscated them, calling them “insensitive” after the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

This unnecessary response has caused great uproar, as it very well should have. Little toy solders are exactly that—little toys. They are little playthings for a child’s vivid imagination. They are not weapons, and they are not harmful. And to take such a thing away conveys another horrible message to the formative mind of a nine-year-old child. It tells him or her that the people defending this country are monsters.

Differing thoughts on war don’t really matter here, whether or not you are for or against it. To be in the military does not mean that you necessarily support or are opposed to war. In fact, it means that if the time should come, you are willing to put your life on the line for your fellow countrymen and women.

The men and women of our country’s armed forces are heroes with the desire to keep our nation a free place that allows individuals to have their own thoughts on everything from gun laws to same-sex marriage. They are heroes who believe in a free society that is open to progress and changes with the desires of the people.

I love being able to vote and freely express my opinion, and I am thankful that they would be willing to defend my desires for such things without even knowing me. They are the heroes, not the villains and not monsters — end of story.

The way I see it, our country’s love of heroes isn’t going anywhere. Every time I see a preview for the latest happy-ending, box-office success, I realize this. Everytime I hear a greasy politican use words like “hope,” “change” or “a better tomorrow,” I realize this. Every time I hear people talking about matters in relation to their own personal comfort and happiness, I realize this. It’s really not a bad thing— we should like the hero. Love of the villain is what should raise concern.

James Holmes, better known as “The Batman Killer,” is an example of this. He was known for a love of the bad guy. He was also known for being overly impressionable from movies he watched. My guess is that there were always things, especially in his formative years, that should have served as a trigger — things that people in his life should have been paying attention to about his personality that they didn’t. That desire didn’t just develop over night. One thing certainly led to another.

Let kids be kids —let them play with their toys and play their games, and allow them to develop their imaginations as well as a love for the hero. Taking away these things is just a cop-out for bad and irresponsible parenting. And to call toy solders on cupcakes “insensitive” and confiscate them is just an irrational cop-out for dealing with the bigger issue: the school environment encouraging healthy, child-like imaginations.

But I guess that’s another thing we seem to value here—bailouts, cop-outs and the passing of the blame. It too, along with heroism, is the American way.