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Archive for February 7th, 2008

Warping children for war

A couple of items in the news recently have me lingering on the edge of despair, wondering if there is any hope at all for a world fit to live in.

First was a report I caught the end of on the BBC about how children in Gaza were handing out sweets in celebration of the suicide bombings in Israel that managed to blow some people to bits.

Then, this morning a brought this, complete with video, from an Al-Qaeda training school that teaches little boys how to be terrorists.

Also in the news, a Khmer Rouge leader asking to be released on bailBrother Number Two, nonetheless.

All three of these are stories of child abuse, yet none are thought to be so in the minds of many.

Although Nuon Chea was a grown man at the time he participated in masterminding the murders of almost two million Cambodians, it was children in the country he turned to for the hands-on, get-their-backs-into-it killing, and the success of getting the kids involved hasn’t been forgotten.

“Lord of the Flies” is terrifying enough as a novel, but when the same inclinations that can take a group of boys from manners to mayhem completely on their own are guided with intent, and armed to the teeth, sinister and sordid no longer fit as descriptive terms, and cultural boundaries should not be allowed to come between kids and their right to be protected from the sort of horrors they are being inducted into.

There is nothing natural about a child feeling joy over death and destruction as a matter of choice, and a process that teaches this reaction to pain and suffering is wrong … just plain wrong. Getting them to cause the pain and suffering is not only wrong, but criminally so, and anyone perpetuating a system of hand-me-down terrorism should be subject to punishment.

Anyone inclined to agree with children being intentionally involved in the horrors grownups create has been warped beyond redemption, and unfortunately, this may also be so for the children at their mercy.

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According to this article in the Washington Post, not a lot.

It would be nice to claim that comic strips are the last bastion of racism in American media, but that really would be funny. It’s simply one more example of carte blanche being lily white in the realm that exerts influence over the thinking of millions of people every day, and most people don’t even bother to notice that it happening.

After all, who knows what the person drawing a strip looks like?

(I have friends who vacationed in Mexico a number of years ago and didn’t realize that the Gary Larson who was their beach buddy of a couple buddy of a few weeks, who shared many a meal with them was actually THE Gary Larson of “Far Side” fame.

Yes, he was a fun guy and his name did ring bells, but no connection was made until he signed the hotel’s guest book as he checked out and drew a little cartoon as a memento of his stay.)

To draw attention to the fact that the number of non-white cartoonists is an embarrassment in a country as racially diverse as America demographically is, this coming Sunday those sitting down to read the “funnies” will find a protest, of sorts.

11 cartoonists of color will be drawing essentially the same comic strip, using irony to literally illustrate that point. In each strip, the artists will portray a white reader grousing about a minority-drawn strip, complaining that it’s a “Boondocks” rip-off and blaming it on “tokenism.” “It’s the one-minority rule,” says Lalo Alcaraz (“La Cucaracha”). “We’ve got one black guy and we’ve got one Latino. There’s not room for anything else.”

Read along, smile if you are so inspired, but understand there is no little power in humor, and comic strips have long been both an indicator of and an influence over popular culture.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our kids could all spend their Sunday mornings hovering over a two-page spread that would represent them more fully and clearly? I’m not suggesting that every paper needs to have a special section for transracially or internationally adopted kids, but we’re a multicolored world, and the funnies haven’t been printed in black and white for many, many years. It’s time they caught up with themselves.

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