Inez Tenenbaum was unanimously approved by US Senators to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission on June 19. She vowed to ban or toughen standards testing for several consumer products from China, including toys with lead paint.
Inez’s top priority should be banning war toys. War toys are products threatening the safety of people everywhere with or without lead paint.
War toys teach children to accept a militarized world, which is unsafe for people anywhere. War toys teach children that war and killing are acceptable in dealing with conflict and that people who look or think differently should be defeated. Some toys help children play together. Other toys teach them new things. But war toys teach children to fight. War toys teach them that might is right, and mock kindness, conciliation, cooperation, skill, and thoughtfulness toward others.
In Nazi Germany toys for children were used to spread racial and political propaganda to German youth. Toys were also used as propaganda vehicles to indoctrinate children with militarism. From their first days in school, German children were taught love for Hitler, obedience to state authority, militarism, racism, and anti-Semitism.
Inez Tenenbaum’s husband Sam, whom she introduced at the beginning of her confirmation hearing, is a long-time, dedicated fighter of anti-Semitism and a friend of mine. Sam Tenenbaum challenged Lee Atwater for running an anti-Semitic campaign against Max Heller in 1978 in a congressional race. Heller was formerly Mayor of Greenville, SC and a Jewish refugee from Austria who had fled the Nazis. Atwater later apologized to Tenenbaum just before he died from brain cancer in 1991. War toys worked for Hitler, teaching German children the glories of war and empire much like they instruct US children in violence today.
War toys and games are a family concern. War toys are playthings, used in simulated conflict, to gain power, and win by using violence. A war toy’s aim is to wound or kill. Playing is fun, but when children play war games they learn things like creating two sides, "ours" and "theirs"; solving arguments by fighting; using guns and other war equipment as toys; praising and rewarding the use of violence and physical strength; starting fights and making enemies; pretending people don’t suffer and die in a war; and making war seem okay.
War toys are easier for children to play with than learning how to read or play the piano. War toys teach children aggression. Aggression needs an outlet, but aggression can be played out in a non-violent manner with peaceful games.
Children should know what really happens in a war. People are hurt, maimed and killed. War toys, games, television shows, and movies using guns seldom show the real effect of what violence does to people. It is wrong to hurt others or pretend to hurt others, but violence sells in the media in action adventures like CSI and the multiple murders and shootings, bleeding and leading on local TV news.
Studies indicate a direct correlation between exposure to media violence, especially interactive video games, to increased childhood aggression. A Stanford University study showed that third and fourthâÂ€’graders who limited or eliminated television and video games had a 50 % decrease in verbal aggression and 40% in physical aggression.
Technology has made it easier to distance ourselves from the true horrors of warfare. We can zap "the enemy" and innocent civilians with electronically controlled missiles without seeing the tragic consequences. The attacker never faces the victim.
Better alternatives to children enjoying shooting at people and blowing up buildings are games that encourage the use of their minds, skills and physical dexterity in activities promoting the sanctity of life and peace.
Violence has never been an effective solution to the world’s problems. Cruelty can easily become a human addiction, especially among the young. Inflicting pain and suffering should never be an American sport. Peace is the best thing to teach our children.
Inez Tenenbaum should ban all war toys, with or without lead paint.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina,