I recently went to a one man play at The MAT theatre in Colorado Springs called “Stick Guns.” Actor/Co-Director Jim Jackson grew up in Canon City, a city southwest of Colorado Springs that is home to several prisons and a retirement home-that Jim’s 10 year old character, Jimmy, jokes may as well be a prison. The audience joins Jimmy on his cops and robbers, war games, and paper route. He emulates his movie war heroes by sneaking one of his mom’s cigarettes to smoke before his paper route-and for the length of that cigarette, Jimmy is a hero, too. Besides, all the other guys at the newspaper warehouse smoke.
Says Jackson about his semiautobiographical play, “It kind of grows out of a culture that says, Hey, if you don’t have power this is how you get it. ‘Our heroes all have guns, if you have a just cause then maybe you should get one too.”
As Jimmy grows up his stick gun becomes a BB gun. Jimmy and his friends go out to shoot birds, but only the crows (they steal from farmers), magpies (they resemble crows), and woodpeckers (they ruined Jimmy’s grandfather’s barn). His attitude begins to change when he mistakenly shoots a robin, something his grandfather said never to do.
Jimmy talks about the parents that don’t let their kids play with sticks because they use them as guns, but then Jimmy says they just use plastic guitars, tennis rackets, and other toys.
As RAWtools grows we are building a network of people across the country that can help us disable guns and turn them into garden tools, feathers, flowers, bells, and other art that breeds creative dialogue toward a nonviolent world. (You can do that here)
One of those people is Larry. Larry is a blacksmith and welder who helps us at many of our events on the east coast. He has helped with other sword to plowshare projects in the past and has collected a hodgepodge of chopped up gun parts. They are stored in the back of his crawl space where it’s a bit tricky to get to. This is where his grandkids come in handy. When they come over and he has a project in the near future, he sends a grandkid on a bear crawl to retrieve a chopped up gun.
What examples are we setting for our kids and grandchildren to emulate? What trajectory are their imaginations aimed? Not only do kids see our example, they imagine themselves in our example. As children grow they innovate and imagine beyond our example. Our children’s imagination is rooted in the example we have given them to grow from.
From a fist-to a rock-to a knife-to a sword-to a gun-to a bigger gun and a bomb – All from an imagination built on what preceded it. The question is, which imagination do you want to foster – One that turns any toy into a gun; or maybe one that turns weapons into life giving tools?
I have a two year old son. He surprises me every day with what he is able to recall or emulate from something he saw me do recently. It’s not just what I say, but how I say it (or sing it). He knows logos and the names they are associated with (he knows branding!?!?!). He repeats phrases with the same inflection and emotion I used. They’re not just watching us, they are acting into their evolution. Or maybe a revolution?
I have a hope of what my great-grandchild’s world might look like, I pray that our lives offer our children an example that is postured toward a plowshare and not a sword..or a rock…or a fist…..