Who Dies the Neatest
I was born in Philadelphia in 1952. Back then my parents and all their peers saw no problem with my buddies and me playing “War” in the streets using very realistic looking cap guns and rifles with rubber bayonets.
My dad had fought the Japanese in World War Two. My mom and her father (but not her mother) escaped Fasist Italy in the late 1930’s. Everyone knew the difference between “make believe” and “for real.” And, they knew the importance of letting children play. It was a time and place of peace and sanity.
Things changed for me when I turned seven because we moved to rural New Jersey where I had no male friends. Sharon (a year older than me) and her younger sister Jo Ann were the only play pals that my sister and I had. This is what I recall of then:
The three girls want me to play “House” with them. The idea is that one of us will be daddy, another mommy and the remaining two are the kids. Then the “grown-ups” pretend they are the perfect parents that we wish we had and the “kids” pretend to be the perfect kids we wish that we were.
“That’s stupid,” I say. “Where’s the fun in that?” The rules are unclear and you don’t know when you win, if ever.
I explain that to play “War” all we have to do is try to kill each other. Whoever survives wins. I have cap guns, rifles and hand grenades enough for all of us. Obviously, a lot more fun and it’s clear who wins.
“Okay,” Sharon says. “Go ahead and shoot me.”
“What? It’s no fun unless you put up a fight.”
“I don’t want to fight. Just shoot me.”
So, I shoot her with my cap gun. She’s asking for it, after all.
“Oh my God,” Sharon cries. “I’ve been shot.” She grabs her gut and bends half-over. “What will happen to me? To us? Our children? I won’t live long enough for us to have children!”
Sharon stumbles forward, coughs up spittle; her eyes fill with tears. She collapses on the grass. She gasps for air.Continue reading “Make Games Not War”