Sunday, October 2, 2011


            When I was a kid, I played cowboys and Indians with my neighborhood friends all the time. We ran around shooting each other and screaming as if the decibel level alone would kill. I loved TV heroes like Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger. And I loved my cowgirl outfit and gun.
            We never considered calling “Indians” something politically correct like “Native Americans.” Our game was purely about pretending to be bad. It was about having fun getting rid of excess energy, creating stories, winning and losing, and the “good guys” defeating the “bad.”
            Today, there’s no dearth of "good" or “bad” guys. But they're not on the playground or running around the back yard.
           They’re real, older than we were, and it can be hard to tell which category they’re in. They shoot each other to dominate a drug territory or another gang, for vengeance, for pride, for money. And a lot of kids and teens are getting killed.
            It's obvious to me how many kids and teens today prefer violent digital games, play them constantly, and think they’re “exciting” and “fun.” Bullies are different, too. They no longer just beat kids up. They threaten other kids, steal from them, sexually assault them, insult or lie about them on Facebook, sometimes verbally torture them into leaving school or committing suicide.
            Maybe it was better the old-fashioned way, when young kids played at being “bad” and “dangerous” instead of being obsessed with violent digital games, fearful of abusive peers, and dealing with gang recruiters when they’re only in third or fourth grade.
            The kids at the shelter often dress up as aggressive, “good” heroes on Halloween. Sometimes they carry swords, knives, or guns as part of their costume. Other kids often grab the “weapons” and start a play fight.
            This doesn’t mean they will be batterers when they grow up. I “killed” lots of stage coach robbers and Indians when I was little and I’m okay.
            I just wonder if today’s kids might be better off expressing aggression through their play, instead of becoming immune to violence through their thumbs.
            Maybe we should bring back the fringed jackets, fake Stetsons, gun belts, moccasins, tomahawks, and feathers.
            Or something.

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