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May 19, 2009

Really, I Thought Things Were Going To Be Different


You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

from: Masters Of War by Bob Dylan

What most troubles me looking at this newswire photo of a little boy playing with a Gatling gun during an Air Force air show on Sunday is that I can’t tell how much irony was intended, if any. Then, given the way things are going, can’t you just see the boy as the soldier in the window in thirteen short years?

200905211305.jpgAlso see contributer Nina Berman’s Asking Questions About America: Fleet Week #1; Black Boys With Guns: Fleet Week #2; and It’s Not A Hand Gun, It’s Military: Fleet Week #3.

(image: Jose Luis Magana-AP. May 17, 2009. caption: Cameron Staeri, 5, from Leesburg Va., plays with a helicopter Gatling gun during an air show at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland)

  • Tena

    I have a long spiel on militarism in America, when I think it started and what it’s done to us. Basically, I’ve watched this happen in my lifetime. It was WWII that did this to us and we should have listened to Eisenhower, because he was straight-up a prophet. He told us exactly what and who to watch out for and we didn’t do it. He warned us about a cabal of mostly Texas oilmen who were determined to overturn everything FDR did. And he told us to beware the military/industrial complex.
    Now our culture is so thoroughly saturated with militarism that it’s toxic. We are expected to respect a uniform regardless, and most of us do. The military is literally everywhere, in every aspect of our culture. So it was inevitable that we would start having lots of imperial notions since the military got that kind of central role and strength and that much of our money – which is to say – most of it.
    I don’t know if we can reverse this – it’s pervasive and insidious, as this picture demonstrates so well. It’s sickening to see children playing with mass-killing devices.

  • Joe Blow

    Remember when they had the army shows were the kids got to play in the training video simulator? and all the pictures of the kids with M16?
    and the latest pic of the boy scouts dressed up as swat teams rousting illegals?
    Tena you are so right. but there have always been americans who went to war happily and with dreams of glory. way back when there was the Adams vs Hamilton struggle over war with France. and all the indians we happily slaughtered…
    Play “Masters of War” and hear the list of conflicts Americans fought.. not all for a good cause.., if any.

  • NoObamabot

    Well maybe we need to embrace those who crash planes full of civilians into buildings, Give ‘em all hugs. Lets give drugs to all the children who won’t sit still in school when learning the golden rule. Smash all the guns, beat ‘em into plowshares. Buy the world a Colk and everybody sing in perfect har-mo-ney.
    And then it’ll be all rainbows amd unicorns and gumdrops.
    Kum-by-ya, we shall overcome cause God’s on our side.
    Right ?

  • black dog barking

    Yeah, of Masters of War verse two speaks to the subtext of the image. The first verse:
    Come you masters of war
    You that build all the guns
    You that build the death planes
    You that build the big bombs
    You that hide behind walls
    You that hide behind desks
    I just want you to know
    I can see through your masks
    speaks to the situation that faces us now. The 21st century masters of war have dropped their masks. They hide behind memos that we can easily see through.
    @Tena: Strange bed fellows, Ike and Bobby D coming to much the same conclusions at much the same time from such divergent life experiences.

  • black dog barking

    Hey NoObamabot, sarcasm doesn’t solve communication problems. It usually makes things worse by amplifying the perceived differences. At the end of your post I know what you think are positively bad ideas but have no clue how you would fix these positively bad ideas.
    First glance this picture reminded me of a recent news article from a correspondent following a platoon around rural Afghanistan. They came under observation of a single lookout posted on higher ground, some fire exchanged, the insurgent finally driven off when an A-10 was called in.
    The connection I’m seeing is this. Are we winning in a situation where we call in an incredible aircraft designed to turn back Soviet tanks on the plains of Eastern Europe to scare off a single lightly armed farmer? What I see in this picture is that we’re not learning from our current experience, that the wars we fight today aren’t won by the ability to deliver hundreds of high powered rounds in very little time. We need to develop and apply the appropriate tools for our current problems.
    I hope this boy is offered the opportunity to get excited about reading Thoreau or Steinbeck. The freedom of speech we’re enjoying depends on more than our ability to kill whomever we deem a threat.

  • yg

    the phrase “reap the whirlwind” comes to mind.

  • jtfromBC

    War Song by Bertolt Brecht translated by Christopher Isherwood
    & now they’re off to the war
    & they all need cartridges badly
    & of course there are plenty of nice kind people
    Who’ll find them the cartridges gladly
    “No ammunition, no war!
    Leave that to us my sons!
    You go to the front & fight
    We’ll make your munitions & guns.”
    And they made munitions in piles
    And there wasn’t a war to be found
    And of course there were plenty of nice kind people
    Who conjured one out of the ground
    “Off you go, dear boy, to the front!
    For they threaten your native sod
    March, for your mothers & sisters,
    For your King & for your God!”

  • black dog barking

    Hey jt,
    I wonder how the dynamic of war mongering/ making would change if the financial risk/ rewards were distributed according to exposure to death or maiming injury? Would there be a rush to join front line units? Or would there be a rush to find another type of investment?
    What a system. Those that pay the most to play get paid the least for their contribution. Dulce et decorum …

  • elfpix

    When the forces of civilization conspire with the forces of genetics to achieve that which is destructive to civilization and genetics the result is human history.

  • Pat

    It’s kids playing in a helicopter. Get over it.

  • PhoenixRising

    You come here a lot, Pat?

  • Russ Nichols

    If you haven’t read Johnny Got His Gun, I suggest you get a copy and read it. It was written by Dalton Trumbo, who as you probably know, was a prolific screenwriter in the 30s and 40s won at least one Oscar and was blacklisted for years. Johnny Got His Gun will make a pacifist out of anyone. I suspect anyone who has read the book would be properly horrified by this photo.

  • thirdeyepushpin

    I am trying to imagine how this would play if it was a palestinian or iraqi youth and the picture was in the new york times. What would the flavor be? Would it be celebratory?

  • Tena

    ” but there have always been americans who went to war happily and with dreams of glory”
    That’s very true – but it’s different now. The differences are many – in the first place, it’s a different kind of military now than then. In the second place, the military as an institution, did not become this all-pervasive until after WWII. We were not this militaristic until we became the world’s super power – but that works together and it’s a chicken and egg thing – you become a superpower by elevating the military, which in turn, keeps solidifying the military’s place in the culture and grows it.

  • SenatorMalcombWallop

    “The words, ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,’from a national intelligence estimate in 1979, express…the most concise symbol of philosophic and moral illiteracy that one could imagine. In the minds of the officials who carry such words in their very bones, the differences between a Jonas Savimbi and an Idi Amin, between the Kmer Rouge and the Kmer People’s Liberation Front…are matters of taste: a dilettante’s distinction of distractingly empty thought processes.” (The Role of Congress in Uri Ra’aman et al, Hydra of Carnage (1986))

  • Gunther

    Maybe we can all have world-wide group hug? That would solve WAY more problems than a strong miliary.
    That little boy is learning not be afraid of a tool that he MIGHT someday use to keep people like you safe and warm in your internet connected homes.
    You find it sickening. What I find sickening is the fact that so many people in America today don’t CARE about the sacrifices brave people have been making for them over the past 230 years. If they had not bothered, you probably could not have made that post.

  • yg

    Well maybe we need to embrace those who crash planes full of civilians into buildings,
    (what does 9/11 have to do with our being in iraq?)
    Give ‘em all hugs. Lets give drugs to all the children who won’t sit still in school when learning the golden rule.
    (what? so…your argument is it’s better to steep young minds in a culture of wanton violence. that’s the best answer if we want to shape, grow and develop healthy psyches?)
    Smash all the guns, beat ‘em into plowshares. Buy the world a Colk and everybody sing in perfect har-mo-ney.
    And then it’ll be all rainbows amd unicorns and gumdrops.
    Kum-by-ya, we shall overcome cause God’s on our side.
    Right ?
    (mindlessly parroting cliches isn’t really an argument.)

  • MassMark

    Some of you really are Moonbats….It’s a great shot, of a great kid, having a great day….Get over yourselves wingnuts….

  • yg

    chill, nobody is going to take away your g.i. joe action figures.

  • Gasho

    This whole idea that war and fighting is what gives us comfort and safety is absurd.
    In the modern age, the fighting isn’t about protecting ourselves from invaders — it’s about controlling resources.
    The red-blooded cry to “protect our country” by killing, torturing, illegal wiretaps and big trucks has undermined the ideas that make the country great. Justice is NOT the same as having the bigger gun; or appointing a bias judge. Freedom is NOT about sending military troops all over the world to dominate the globe. Being a good citizen is NOT the same as waving a flag. Honor is NOT power.
    If this little boy joins the armed forces in 13 years ( and that’s exactly why he’s allowed to get behind this gun, Michael) I hope he never shoots at anyone.

  • Lucaites

    You ar right. It is a great picture. How could anyone object to the use of such a weapon when a child can have so much fun with it. And you are right that it is a great kid having a great day. Now let’s imagine him in 20 years suffering from PTSD … The problem with the picture is that it normalizes a behavior that, well, we should take a bit more seriously, don’t you think?

  • dada

    As an Army brat, I gotta tell you that those days we got to climb inside a tank or ride in a jeep were pure-fun.

  • doug

    no, i would rather think about living in a society where we encourage children to play with death machines.

  • Victor F
  • kickstand

    MShaw said: I can’t tell how much irony was intended, if any.
    I thought the point of photojournalism is that there is supposed to be no intention, just a document of the facts.

  • Joe Blow

    “I thought the point of photojournalism is that there is supposed to be no intention”
    I think the point of this blog is that all pictures have intent. from the taking, to the sending to the selecting and the printing.
    Why this pic and not another?

  • yg

    “I thought the point of photojournalism is that there is supposed to be no intention, just a document of the facts.”
    if that were true, corporate media would feel free to show evidence of the effect of our bombs on civilian populations.

  •,31511,1889745,00.html yg

    didn’t you point to this before?
    girl with assault rifle:,31511,1889745,00.html

  • Ex-military

    I don’t agree with the liberals here, but I would defend their right to say stupid things with my life.
    Humans have been fighting each other for longer than there are records.
    Wishing or group hugging or insulting the people who differ in opinion won’t change that.
    (Love the pict of the ‘girl with assault rifle’!)

  • cobbfan

    Is it really sad that a kid plays in a helicopter with a gun? In some parts of the world he would already be taken from his parents and forced to join a “freedom” army. I don;t hear the outrage there, just sticking your head in the sand pretending the rest of the world isn’t a 3rd world nation where this is no hope.
    To yg – we went into Iraq because the blood thirsty dictator that was there thumbed his nose at the world daring someone to do something – for over a decade. Also giving $25,000.00 to the family of the suicide bomber that killed Jews was a throw in.
    Everyone needs to get a grip with reality. There are bad people out there. Hugs and understanding don’t work on them. They look forward to blowing themselves up for a radical belief. turn the other cheek may be fine and dandy, but sometimes you have to stick up for yourself and fight back. I don’t need to bring up 9/11…just look at what is happening in Iraq. Now that they know they do not have to fear the terrorists or a brutal dictator dragging them out of their homes at night – the country is making real progress to being the first real democracy in the area.
    One last thing about corporate greed – it was so bad that there was sustained growth for almost 30 years? If all this greed is so bad – how much money did corporation give back out to people through charity or “corporate excess”? Remember all those “horrible” corporate retreats? how many hotels with they were still hosting them? Was there excess – you bet – but in the grand scheme of things, if the company is making money, it should be able to send how it likes – just like you and me and everyone else.
    Large corporations are not the enemy (I am employed by a large corporation) – our elected officials are part of the issues. How many serious criminal offenses have been dragging on for years while investigations are going on – like Rep Charles Rangle – NY – the head of the House Ways and Means committee lied on his taxes going back 20 years. Not only is he still in chage of making the tax laws – the investigation has been going on for over a year and they are still finding issues – yet he has never been brought up on charges. The real sad part is – he will more than likely be reelected.

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