Wow, it’s been awhile since I wrote anything substantive. I suppose I could use the excuse that I recently had surgery, that I’m still recovering, that I’m getting ready for a household move, juggling some items at home, etc. However, I will, instead, just take the hit for being inattentive, and not writing as much as I should have.
So, today’s dilemma. The kids have learned/memorized their first viable paper airplane design, and are (as of yesterday) producing a paper air force of pretty capable gliders. This morning, Carson came to me and asked if we could customize the planes to represent real air forces from WWII. Disclaimer: Yes, for the U.S. it would have actually been the ARMY. For my army friends…:) He wanted to have actual insignia from all the prominent belligerents, i.e. he wanted an American plane, British, Canadian, German, Japanese, etc. So, to be realistic, we accessed photos of genuine aircraft from the conflict to be sure we were doing it right. That’s when I really took note of the swastikas on the tails of the Me-109s. Hmmm.
I knew that they would be throwing the planes outside, in plain sight, and possibly with friends. Do I put the swastikas on there? Obviously, they were not mandatory, as the large black crosses on the fuselage were sufficient to ID the planes (to anyone who knew the difference, which is not many people, I’m sure) as Luftwaffe. However, I started thinking… Why the hell not? They are part of the historical reality of the aircraft, are they not? Plus, Carson had seen them, and knew that they were part of the paint scheme. Do I exclude them and try to explain why? Do I make something up? Do I cave to the “that’s not really a nice symbol, and here’s why” path? Or, do I start the process of educating him in the ways of historical reality, and continue to teach him not to be afraid or intimidated by things that, a.) he had nothing to do with, and, b.) couldn’t change if he wanted to. I chose the latter.
Lo and effing behold, about three hours ago, the kids were flying their air force out in the front yard, and one of our wonderful, dear-friend neighbors happened to drop by after a run. He is truly a great guy. Before I even knew that anyone had arrived (I was inside doing dishes or something), Sydney came in and said, “(neighbor) is out in the driveway!” By the time I walked out there, he had received a complete briefing from Carson on the airplanes, that represented about 10 countries at that point. I have no doubt that neighbor saw the swastikas. Oh well, that’s the price of doing business. I suppose I could have said, in the interest of social niceties alone, “so, what do you think of the swastikas?”, but I chose to simply go with the flow and saying nothing. The right decision, I’m convinced.
Of course, this little item represents a much larger issue in American culture and, specifically, the question of how parents will choose to address tough and controversial issues with their kids. I choose, and will continue to choose, the path that includes full, complete, apolitical explanations of what happened, and what people thought about it, in the genuine context of history. Of course, there remains that little nagging thought that, at some point, about some ‘thing’, I will be labeled the “the parent who thought it was OK for his kids to draw swastikas on their paper airplanes”….or the equivalent, about whatever inappropriate thing it turns out to be.
I guess I’ll take that chance. Plus, how many grown-ups can actually tell me where the cannons were placed on the Me-109? My six-year-old son Carson can. He also knows what an aileron roll is. 🙂