07 January 2013

Wrestling With Imagination and Realities

Walking The Offspring to school this morning, we passed a shrine.  Someone made a poster, there were several dozen memorial candles, young teenagers were adding their contributions in Sharpie on the building wall.  I hadn't heard, but The Mate said there had been a shooting -- apparently one teenager shot another for his coat.

The Offspring asked a couple of questions, and I pointed out that the life of the killer, too, is ruined.  I pointed out that the lives of both families are affected, if not ruined.  I pointed out that teenagers are particularly prone to impulsive behavior that can lead to terrible mistakes.  And I added that this is why I don't want him playing violent video games, or playing gun games with his pals.

These games seem to happen whether there are nerf- or water-gun props, or not.  A stick gets used as a gun, or just arms and hands.

Zeke was about three when he started talking about Power Rangers.  The kids at school were talking about it, and even though he'd never seen the TV shows, he seemed to have absorbed a great deal of information about it.  That seemed harmless enough.

But now it's shooting.  Shooting games, imitating machine-gun fire, dropping to the ground pretending to be dead.  It bothers me, and in the current context, it's bothering me than ever. Yet I played those games as a kid, too.

Growing up as an immigrant and an outsider in a small town, I wanted desperately to fit in, not to be different, not to stick out. I love living in New York because it absorbs people from everywhere.  I fit in as one marble among millions, each one unique, each respecting the others' differences.

And so I want The Offspring to fit in.  I don't want to wrench him from context, keep him from joining the other kid games, make him an outlier.  We're different enough with no television in the house.  I can't see forbidding gun games, and I don't think it would stop him from playing them at the playground or at other kids' homes.

So all I can do is talk to him.  Talk about real violence, real death, and my discomfort with games of violence.

Can I do more?