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Why GI Joe Riles the Left By: William R. Hawkins
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, July 08, 2004


Over the 4th of July weekend, antiwar protesters demanded that the Minnesota Twins baseball team cancel a promotional giveway of "G.I. Joe" action figures. The Twins provided figures of the character "Duke" (the lead character in the G.I. Joe series, who shares his nickname with John Wayne) to 5,000 children who attended the July 5 game against the Kansas City Royals. The promotion was an attempt to honor American service men and women and was done after consultation with local veterans groups. Real veterans groups that is. John Varone, president of the Twin Cities chapter of Veterans for Peace, told the Associated Press that the effort was misplaced. "For gosh sakes, the last place we need to promote war is at our national pastime," he said.

On its homepage, the national Veterans for Peace organization claims its mission is "to restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations" and "to abolish war as an instrument of national policy." They also claim a "greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace" than they showed when they merely served in defense of their own country. The upcoming VFP convention in Boston (July 23-26) will feature an array of far-Left speakers including Howard Zinn and Daniel Ellsberg. At the antiwar rally held on the eve of the Iraq war on April 20, 2002, in Washington, VFP President David Cline also denounced  the military campaign against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. He then not only embraced activists from the Vietnam War era, but also veterans of the Lincoln Brigade recruited by the Soviets to fight in the Spanish Civil War. It is no wonder that VFP objected to distributing toys that promote the ideals of patriotism and steadfast loyalty.

The campaign against "war toys" is another example of American leftists emulating the decadence of socialist Europe. The European Parliament has recommended that its member states ban advertising of war toys and reduce their sale. Sweden, Norway, Greece and Malta have already taken various steps to restrict their sale or import. And it can happen here. The Federal Trade Commission held a workshop last October to deal with issues relating to the marketing of violent entertainment to children, focusing on movies, music and video games. When Jocelyn Elders was Surgeon-General in the Clinton administration, she proposed a national ban on toy guns. The Coalition for Peace Action claims war toys "teach children to accept a militarized world. They teach children that people who look or think differently should be defeated."

When I was growing up, toy guns and toy soldiers were the favorite playthings of my circle of friends. I remember having a plastic Hopalong Cassidy six-shooter, which was superseded by a double-holster Roy Rogers set of chrome-plated cap pistols. Later came spring-action replicas of Thompson sub-machine guns. Our neighborhood gang would spend hours chasing each other around the empty lots down the street. We also fought major battles with toy soldiers on the living room rug and on the back porch. Later, we graduated to wargames recreating history's great campaigns on a table top. Today I join my son in playing video games like "Counterstrike," which depicts American special operations troops hunting down terrorists.

None of my old gang turned out to be public enemies. Instead they became lawyers, engineers, and bankers. My best friend in these childhood "wars" grew up to be an Episcopal priest. This is because we lived in an era with strong values. Television was more violent then, but less morally ambiguous than now. Westerns like "Gunsmoke" "The Wild, Wild West" and "The Rifleman" dominated my viewing. Our idols were the "good guys" who always triumphed in the end. The villains ended up in jail (usually awaiting the hangman) or had already been sent directly to Boot Hill by the hero. And we cheered because we knew that's where the "bad guys" belonged.

It is this very idea of moral clarity that has liberals upset. Physicians for Global Survival claims that war toys like "G.I. Joe" tell children that "the world is divided into ‘goodies' and ‘baddies' where the bad guys are devoid of human qualities and their destruction is desirable. The story-line repetitively casts bad people (as aliens or robots) seeking power to control the world (or city or universe). The ‘good people' vanquish them with violence. The child learns that justice, reason and effective communication do not achieve success. The weapon is a tool of power over others and necessary to deal with evil.....acceptance of war toys by adults socializing children is likely to interfere with inducing values and skills of nonviolent conflict resolution, empathy, compassion and a complex view of the equality and diversity of humankind and the worth of all living things."

One wonders how the Physicians for Global Survival would have dealt with Hitler. We know how they would have dealt with Saddam -- they would have left him in peace and power, free to continue the extreme diversity he practiced in the use justice and reason.

Today's popular culture is filled with anti-heroes who smirk at conventional morality, sneer at authority and behave in ways that are openly irresponsible -- but then prosper as a result. Lust and greed dance in the name of free expression. Fortunately, there are still toys like "G. I. Joe" that teach the proper devotion of strength to good causes. The Joes took their present form in the 1980s in tune with the Reagan era. They are individual "action figures" each with a personal history. "Mainframe" was a computer genius who quit Silicon Valley to join the Marine Corps. "Airborne" gave up a successful law practice to become a paratrooper. "Flint" was a Rhodes Scholar who became a Ranger after becoming "bored with the groves of academe."

In each case, a sector of our overly materialistic, self-indulgent culture is found shallow and unfulfilling. Only by putting their talents to the defense of their country do the Joes find satisfaction. And while modern society asks only a few of its citizens to don a uniform, successful military operations and the diplomacy they empower do require popular support based on the proper ranking of values.

The Joes use violence to defeat their arch enemy Cobra "a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world" but does anyone really think the simpleton "caring and sharing" philosophy promoted by leftist educators is going to make our lives more secure or put an end to the plots of our enemies?

William Hawkins is a consultant on international economics and national security issues.


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