Zero Plus 347
Heroes Of Terrorism
Heroes Of Vigilance
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, August 25--Every child needs a hero. It's part of the
chemistry of youth. When I was a child, my hero was Golden
Arrow, a Clark Kent-like character who had his golden palomino hidden and
would change into the Indian brave garb to save the damsel in distress
from the evil ones. He shot golden arrows, much like the Lone Ranger
shot silver bullets.
I was drawn to his anonymity--the fact that
he was "normally" a quiet, unassuming person who, in the face of danger or
evil, transformed into his alter ego--The Sentinel of Vigilance, the
Johnny-on-the-spot hero who won the eternal battle of good over evil for a
brief moment, and then slipped back into obscurity to await his next
Commercially, the toy and story book
industry seek to fill the child's need for "hero worship," or "hero
identification," with a variety of images, characters and trends.
One is the famous "Barbie" collection--elegant female figures, clothes and
accessories that make a child "want-to-be-like" the image they project.
Another is GI Joe, the action figure series with cigar smoking sergeants
who grimace and shoot all enemies, teaching a child that violence begets
even fiercer violence--the wrath of GI Joe and his buddies.
Now, there is a new toy series out that
sings the song of Vigilance to children, and instead of wanting to convert
them into shapely beauties or cigar chomping killers, this series focuses
its attention on self-sacrifice, on risk, on vulnerability.
Produced by Fisher-Price, a division of
Mattel, the highly successful pre-school toy line is called "Rescue
Message to Kids:
The secret to being a good leader is to set a good example. You can’t
your team to follow rules that you don’t follow yourself. Don’t just
tell them what to do—show them.
The first two of the Rescue Hero series,
"Billy Blazes" (Firefighter) and "Jack Hammer" (Construction Expert)
shipped in December 1997. They were followed in February 1998 with
the debut of "Gil Gripper" (Scuba Diver) and "Rocky Canyon" (Mountain
Ranger). Behind them came "Cliff Hanger" (Air Rescue Specialist) and
"Jake Justice" (Motorcycle Police Officer).
When Mattel's Fisher-Price division
launched the Rescue Heroes, they employed Dr. Janice Cohn to help them.
She is a child psychotherapist and author of Raising Compassionate,
Courageous Children in a Violent World.
The $25-billion-a-year toy industry was
given a boost after September 11 when Fisher-Price's Rescue Heroes sales
rocketed. According to the Toy Industry Association, Billy
Blazes and his buddies helped catapult the action figure category to a
36.2 percent increase for 2001, driving sales for action figures alone to
over $1.6 billion.
Chuck Scothon, senior vice president of marketing
for Fisher Price says the Rescue Heroes were questioned when they were
introduced because they don't follow the historic pattern of action figure
toys in the struggle of good versus evil. "Where's the evil?"
chimed one critic. Scothon and Fisher-Price were betting on a
"positive toy for mom to be excited about." Instead of defeating
others, the Rescue Heroes' mission is to save others. "We set up
emergency scenarios such as fires or floods or cats trapped in trees that
children must use their imagination to solve," he said.
Rescue Heroes fly in the face of GI Joes and Max
Steel, good vs. evil action figures.
Ironically, Billy Blazes Firefighter, was
designed after New York City's Firefighters in 1997. It wears
the exact uniform of FDNY firefighter.
"Little did we know how poignant this symbol of
dedication and spirit of New York firefighters would become," says Neil
Friedman, Fisher-Price president.
The company's executive vice president for
design and marketing, Jerry Perez, says: "We've all been caught by
surprise by the profile of the FDNY in the common consciousness. The thing
we're proudest of is that the Fisher-Price FDNY relationship didn't begin
on 11th September." However, post 9-11, the company produced a special
Billy Blazes Firefighter with FDNY emblazoned on the uniform
and donated $1 million to the FDNY relief fund.
I have a special kinship toward the
Rescue Heroes. Back five decades ago, mine was a Rescue
Hero of another order--my Golden Arrow. But he died an
unpopular death, disappearing into the cracks of a world suddenly thrust
into the Terrorism of nuclear war.
I grew up as a child learning how to crawl
under my desk and cover my neck when the air raid siren's wailed, and to
imagine that "communists" were everywhere--my Terrorists of the Times.
When I joined the U.S.
Marine Corps in January 1964, it was to the beckoning of a recruiting
poster that barked: "We Make Men!"
I wanted to be G.I. Joe, even though I'd
never played with that exact toy. I had grown up playing Cowboys and
Indians, and playing "war."
Model of P-51
My favorite was making airplane
models from balsa wood, and my two most precious models were the P-51
Mustang, used in World War II, and the F-86 Saber Jet, a Korean War
When I joined the Marine Corps, I missed a shot at being a pilot by one
point, and never retook the test as I was asked to do. I ended up
being a GI Joe, fighting on the ground in over 100 combat missions.
One might think I'd be a GI Joe fan, not a
Rescue Hero advocate. But time changes a man's sense of
violence, his idea of Vigilance.
As a mature man, a father and grandfather,
I'm not big on teaching my grandchildren to "kill things."
Having killed, I wouldn't wish that action upon anyone.
That's why Rescue Heroes help me today see
a more Vigilant world for the children of our society, and the world.
Traditional action figure toys were based on "good" versus "evil."
They justified killing. They promoted Terrorism.
In the Marines, I was trained to kill.
It was my mission. Even though I was a U.S. Marine Corps Combat
Correspondent, my primary duty was to eliminate the enemy and anything
that threatened our security without blinking an eye, and then to write
about it, glorify it, legendize it. I did both very well.
Part of my "killing instinct," or, my
"Terrorism Instinct," was founded in what I played as a child, what I
imagined, what society expected out of a "manly boy."
Today, I cringe when I see a child with a
toy gun walking down the street shooting at people for "fun." I saw
a mother and young boy, maybe three, walking down the sidewalk. He
had a huge plastic "ray-like-gun" and was "zapping" people as he scooted
On another occasion a friend of mine from
California came to visit near Christmas with his wife and young son, about
my grandson's age. When I stopped by the hotel to visit,
the youngster had a pile of GI Joe's his dad had bought at FAO Schwarz, and was
bombing and shooting and obliterating the "enemy." Strangely,
I didn't see a little boy playing, I saw a little beast learning to rip
and shred other human beings.
Terrorism has nefarious tentacles.
They can entwine a child's sense of compassion and choke away the idea of
empathy toward others with a blood thirstiness of the most primal nature.
We don't see it happening. It occurs in the quiet of a child's being
as his or her parents sanction the "playing of violence."
My older daughter and her husband are
pacifists--that is, they believe in non-violent confrontation.
They certainly aren't cowards. They have been arrested
numerous times for protesting violence. My son-in-law was deported
from El Salvador for standing up to the military who threatened to kill a
host of villagers. My daughter faced the barrel of Terrorist machine
guns. Pacifism doesn't mean Complacency.
It means, at least for them, a non-violent household. They
don't allow violent toys, or toys with guns, or swords, or the playing of
"killing" by their children.
ROGER'S Message to Kids:
There’s no "I" in team. It’s all about "WE". Everyone has a job to do.
And when you work as a team, there’s no limit to what you can achieve
together. So when the mission is completed, you can all be proud to
Paradoxically, our other daughter is a
federal law enforcement special agent. She works under cover, and
carries two 9mm Glocks, constantly facing danger with her weapons loaded
and ready if necessary.
Even she, who lives by the gun night and
day, doesn't endorse the teaching of violence in children through the use of
toys or "killing games."
Rescue Heroes toys move our children to a
higher level of Vigilance. Instead of triggering the desire
within us all to be "violent," the toys remind a child and the parents of
a child about the Power Of Vigilance.
That power is about helping rather than
hurting others. It is about thinking of others first, and being
Courageous enough to fly into the face of fury to "save others."
WENDY'S Message to Kids:
You can do anything! If you believe in yourself and you’re willing to
work hard, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish—from getting
good grades in school to becoming an astronaut...or a firefighter!
Our grandson and granddaughter have
over seventeen Rescue Heroes. Fisher-Price includes Wendy
Waters and Ariel Flyer for girls, a female firefighter and veterinarian
respectively, and Aidan Assist EMT who is confined to a wheelchair but can
help save anyone a child's imagination can put in peril.
Wherever we go, Matt, 6, is
conjuring up some scenario where he is Jake Justice (Policeman) or Bill Barker
(ATV Patrolman) or
Cliff Hanger (Hang Glider) and dishes out to me that I am Matt Medical Doctor, or Sandy
Beach (Lifeguard) or Bob Buoy (Coast Guard) or Sam Sparks (Firefighter)
and we have to rescue people or put out fires, or use the EMV (Earth
Moving Vehicle) or call upon Swoops (Rescue Eagle) or employ Smokey
(Firedog) or Claude (Mountain Lion) to help us safely transport the "hurt"
In a world riddled with Terrorism of both
Emotional and Physical threat, I find it refreshing to play Rescue Heroes
with my grandchildren. I am taken back to my own Rescue Heroes
days when I was Golden Arrow, saving the world.
I'm glad that the September 11th generation
of children have an option other than GI Joe-type toys.
The formula for Vigilance comprises
Courage, Conviction and Right Action. Rescue Heroes toys
promote that concept.
Violence based toys, in my opinion, further
Terrorism. They could teach a child to "kill" or "hurt" or "maim."
Terrorism's formula is Fear plus Intimidation equals Complacency.
We fight others out of fear, we often are driven to it by intimidation,
and ultimately, we justify our violent actions by being Complacent that
"good" must conquer "evil," and make the world a black and white arena in
which a child must choose between the sword or nothing.
But that's not the case.
A child can learn to choose between "saving" and "killing." A child
can learn that there are grey areas between the blacks and whites of
society and peoples--they are Compassion, or Empathy or simply just
As Parents of Vigilance, Citizens of
Vigilance, Loved Ones of Vigilance, we can ill afford to trigger the
"Beast of Terror" in our children. All humans are born with
the natural instinct toward violence--it is our link with our primal
But Vigilance is something that needs to be
nurtured, trained, molded.
Our pacifist daughter knows when her
children are at school, or unattended by parents or grandparents, they can
chose to be Terrorists or Sentinels of Vigilance. If they so
elect, they can play "war," and "shoot people," and do what
most kids do when
they play. But, they can be restrained from that violent nature
within us by examples from their home. They can talk their
friends into playing Rescue Heroes instead of war or battles that maim,
hurt or otherwise diminish another's human value. I recall my grandson
telling his friends to play in Winnie the Pooh's 'Hundred Acre
Woods' instead of the Power Rangers battlefield.
Rescue Heroes are, ultimately, our Sentinel
of Vigilance toys. They are at our disposal to help us teach
children their imaginations can be directed toward the preservation of
human dignity, not the elimination of it.
If you are a parent, a grandparent, a loved
one, stop by a toy store and get a couple of Rescue Heroes and take them
home. Before you give them to the child, play with them
yourself. See if you can enjoy the imagination of a child, if
you can break through the barriers of your own years of black and white
thinking, and soar on the wings of Swoops the rescue eagle to some mountain
top where people are stranded by a fierce winter storm, or, become Al
Pine, Arctic Hero and smash through the ice with your moveable ice hammer
to release a family of cub bears trapped there, or call on Buster, Bill
Barker's pet dog to run alongside your ATV as you rush to take the wounded
to the medical center where Jake Justice awaits with Matt Medical Doctor
and his Jaws of Life to lift the victims in his 2-in-1 Ultra Light vehicle
to the regional medical facility. Perhaps the entire family would enjoy
playing the Rescue Heroes "Pet Rescue Game'.
Then compare that use of the
imagination to the killing of the "enemy" by GI-Joe, or the blasting of a
toy tank against enemy positions, or the taste of blood as a World
Wrestling Federation figure body slams the "bad guy" to the canvass.
If our children are
going to live in a world of Vigilance rather than Terrorism,
which toys will best guide them to that end? If
what a child plays with is what a Parent of Vigilance, a Grandparent
of Vigilance or a Loved One of Vigilance buys for them, or allows
them to play with, then it is our duty to give them the ones
that will make them evolve into the kinds of people they can
be--Vigilant, not Terroristic, children of the future.
Don't wait. Go to Toys
'R Us today.
To Aug 24--Assassinating Politicians
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