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nerd appreciation vs. liberal pacifism

A coworker of mine told a story of his nephew, who was into fantasy/role playing games but only very recently admitted this to the extended family, the kid seemed a little embarrassed. I was like, "Hey, nothing to be ashamed of. There are worse things you can do! I'd rather hear about a kid pretending to be a knight with a sword than a kid who spends the day playing first-person shooter games where you mow people down with guns."

I was quickly called out by a noble gun rights supporter who argued that if you're against violence, gun play is way better than anything involving swords. I mean what's worse, shooting someone in the head, or hacking them to death with blades? How can you say it's perfectly healthy for a kid to fantasize about spiked battle flails? I mean talk about inhumane!

He's got a point. I've always hated the idea of kids playing with guns. We lived across the street from this family of boys who were always decked out in full-on soldier gear, running around shooting each other, and it just felt weird. But maybe I have a double standard. I can't explain why I'd feel fine about kids dressed up as midevil knights, but wrong about kids dressed up as modern-day soldiers. Maybe you can explain. Or maybe I'm the only one.

And I know that RPG and "playing with swords" are two different things... I was just offering up some background or context or something.

Kids playing with swords...

Totally awesome, I'll buy the swords
Disturbingly violent, I'd never buy them swords
I don't really care either way

Kids playing with guns...

Totally awesome, I'll buy the guns
Disturbingly violent, I'd never buy them guns
I don't really care either way


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
I didn't know what options to choose either. I don't like swords OR guns, and don't particularly feel one is worse. But I'd probably buy it if I owed her a present and she really really wanted it.
Aug. 8th, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
I think killing people with swords isn't something that happens very much in the real world, so it feels less like real killing that they're pretending to do.
Aug. 8th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
On that note: it's also very hard to "Accidentally" kill people with swords. Wound them? Yes. Kill them? No. It pretty much has to be intentional. One of the things that terrifies me about guns is how *easy* it is to kill. It removes the killer from the act (physically and mentally) and makes it less of a major deal. A sword death, which more gruesome, requires more intention.
Aug. 8th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
You posted this just slightly before me, but we were thinking about the same thing at the same time!
Aug. 8th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
Great minds! : )
Aug. 8th, 2010 03:52 pm (UTC)
Yes - the killer has to look the victim in the face before they kill them, unless they sneak up on them from behind very quietly.
Aug. 8th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
And even if the killer sneaks up behind them, they still have to be *right there*. You can't snipe with swords.
Aug. 10th, 2010 06:40 am (UTC)
Aug. 8th, 2010 02:42 pm (UTC)
My thinking, though, is the hero associated with each of these weapons.

With swords, you're pretty limited to the medieval knight, who was supposed to represent loyalty, chivalry, nobility, etc. They are opposed to dragons, an inhuman and absolute evil. These are ideals I would want more of our society to emulate. I suppose that playing with swords doesn't quite communicate those concepts, but it does afford the opportunity for you to participate with your children and explain them.

With guns, though, you have a couple of options: the modern soldier, the cowboy, or the gangster (either '20s or present-day). There's a lot more ambiguity here. The soldier and the cowboy are both opposed to other soldiers and other cowboys who are very human. The gangster, in both iterations, is a ruthless criminal.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 8th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
More of an antihero, really, wouldn't you say?
Aug. 8th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
With guns, though, you have a couple of options: the modern soldier, the cowboy, or the gangster (either '20s or present-day).

I think there's also the futuristic soldier. Star Trek type heroes with laser guns.
Aug. 8th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
My mom was hugely opposed to guns (I mean SQUIRT guns were an issue for her) and discussed it once with a pediatrician who reminded her that she could not buy all the guns she wanted but my brother would always have the old standby of his thumb and forefinger. His stance was that it was phase that pretty much all little boys went through, they just WERE going to "shoot" things.

I prefer D&D type stuff because there is context, thought, story. It's not all just hack-hack-hack. There is a point and it teaches skills (problem solving, teamwork, etc) It's also much more fanciful in that there is a clear line in that sand that this does not exist in real life. Meanwhile, Grand Thief Auto is set in a modern city and is something you could (in theory) recreate. It's also just grittier and darker.

As far as toys go--it depends on the kid and the representation. I would rather my kid had a wood gun than a sharp sword if they were likely to stab a sibling in the eye with it. But I would rather a wood sword than a hyper realistic gun if they were going to want to tote it everywhere and point it at other people/cars.
Aug. 8th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
I mean what's worse, shooting someone in the head, or hacking them to death with blades?

I think a friend of mine pointed out a big difference a few years ago -- guns are easier to use than swords, and guns are easily lethal. You can accidentally shoot someone in the head and kill them; it's going to take an amazingly freak accident to accidentally hack someone to death. Someone can walk into a building and shoot several people before police arrive or someone stops them. If the same person had a sword instead, the death count would be much lower. People would run away and, unlike with a gun, running just a few feet away would make them impossible to kill.

When I have children, I'm not sure I'd ever be comfortable teaching them that weapons are toys, but I could see someone changing my mind on letting children have toy swords. No one could ever change my mind on guns.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 8th, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)
If you include assembly or loading of a gun, then I suppose that is true. Swords are pretty much ready to go at all times, or at most, need to be unsheathed.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 8th, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm quite certain the right way to deal with kids playing with guns is to teach them to shoot *real* guns so they have respect for them. I hadn't previously considered swords, but I'm pretty sure it's the right answer there, too, although maybe you start with fencing or somesuch.
Aug. 8th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
I think there's something about the anachronism of swords that make me think it's easier for kids to understand they're pretend - plus it is very, very difficult for kids to get their hands on swords! Oh, and there's also a whole chivalry ethic that kids get into if they really get into the medieval knight thing that modern warfare doesn't have at all.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 8th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
In both of the states I've lived in (not that two states is a good indication of all of the US), you can't buy a sword -- one with a metal blade, even if it is cheesy -- if you are under the age of 18, the same way you can't buy a gun if you're under the age of 18. (Unless, of course, your parents are with you to consent.) I'm sure people still manage to buy them underage (just like cigarettes and alcohol and guns), it isn't legal.
Aug. 8th, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
I should probably also point out that I'm working from a primarily UK-based perspective, where it's very difficult to buy either of these objects. Certainly we're not a culture that has guns around the house.

I'm also aware that the kinds of swords kids play with aren't the ninja-style ones, but the standard medieval broadsword model.

Final thought - what 14 year olds get up to and what seven year old get up to are miles apart developmentally. I know one affects the other, but I think I'd place more importance on guns not being viewed as toys and modern warfare not being a game as my hypothetical parenting priority.
Aug. 8th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
I wish you had middle ground choices. When my son was little it didn't bother me at all to get him a plastic Teenage Mutant Turtles sword to play with, but I didn't think it was totally awesome. Also, when my husband and I discovered one of *his* old toy guns I realized that when he and I were kids playing with toy guns was cool, so we got our son a toy gun. Again, not totally awesome, but not distrubingly violent.

So...I do care, it's just that I'm in favor. Moderately.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 9th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
People taking toy guns out of the hands of children is simply adults mapping their own fears and prejudices upon someone else. Someone else who's smaller, less aware and far more impressionable than another adult mind.

Aww, you say that like its a bad thing. I believe this is called child rearing. It's not just fear and prejudice, its also tastes, values and morals. You can't have one without the others, so the best parents can do is to continue to evolve their own personal selves, but still. Of course you project. Parents do it, couples do it, employers and employees do it. Its an integral part of our psychology. It's a building block for empathy.

I don't get it. Life is brutal and nasty and we have to stop distancing ourselves than why would we delay reality? This makes no sense to me. Or were you being sarcastic? The crack about college makes me think you're kidding, but I'm not sure.

I prefer swords, personally. I wouldn't stop my kids from playing toy guns though I might try to redirect them towards some other game. But I have bigger fish to fry.
Aug. 9th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
I think that fantasy violence is so completely different from anything that is likely ever to present itself to a kid as a viable option that it's completely harmless (in fact, it's awesome). Whereas glorifying gun violence against human beings could conceivably dispose them toward such a thing in real life. I say "conceivably," because I don't think it's likely at all. Most children are perfectly able to distinguish imagination from real life. I'd rather buy kids swords, but then again, I was never really into guns. Of course, rather than playing with fake swords or guns, I'd probably rather enroll them in a martial arts class where they'd learn to use weapons safely.
Aug. 10th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
"With guns, though, you have a couple of options: the modern soldier, the cowboy, or the gangster (either '20s or present-day).

I think there's also the futuristic soldier. Star Trek type heroes with laser guns."

What about the Police? Standup, forthright , hopefully admirable heroes of the community... And for those of you who have children, Have you introduced your kid to a cop and let them know they're the good guys and are safe, despite the big scary gun they carry?
Aug. 11th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
Toy guns seem scarier to me largely because of the relative availability of the real thing--and the amount of damage one can accidentally do with the real thing. It's important to teach kids not to point guns at humans (unlike, ahem!, how *I* played as a kid; do as I say, kids, not as I do!).

But then there's the intent of the real thing: guns aren't always weapons; sometimes they're tools for hunting, whereas I've never known anyone to take a sword into the woods to harvest meat. (By the same token, I distrust hand guns more than long guns.)

Sword play is a martial art, which means it's designed for human-on-human violence--but also means it's mentally and physically challenging. With a toy gun, you declare that you've hit, and that's it.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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