Thursday, May 14, 2009

America's Child Soldiers?

I'm concerned by today's New York Times article about Explorer scouts being trained as potential border patrol agents to "hunt terrorists." When I was an Explorer scout I was a search and rescue volunteer, but it's a pretty big leap from that to training to shoot people. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone who handles a firearm should be properly taught and trained, but I don't think society should be training 14-year olds that shooting at people is the fun part of being in law enforcement. When that kid grows up and becomes an actual border patrol agent faced with a question of whether to shoot or exercise restraint, what part of his training do you think will kick in first? 

Cathy Noriego, also 16, said she was attracted by the guns. The group uses compressed-air guns — known as airsoft guns, which fire tiny plastic pellets — in the training exercises, and sometimes they shoot real guns on a closed range.
“I like shooting them,” Cathy said. “I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.”

And since this Explorer scout post is near the Mexican border, how long before one or more of these kids decides, either for fun or through a sense of duty, to take matters into their own hands, "borrow" a parent's weapon, and go get some live fire, live target experience. If the Minutemen are out there, what would make a kid restrain him or herself? 
In a competition in Arizona that he did not oversee, Deputy Lowenthal said, one role-player wore traditional Arab dress. “If we’re looking at 9/11 and what a Middle Eastern terrorist would be like,” he said, “then maybe your role-player would look like that. I don’t know, would you call that politically incorrect?”
Politically incorrect yes, but the bigger point is that he is training those kids to shoot anyone in Arab dress. First of all, why would a terrorist necessarily be Arab, and why would he wear Arab dress when trying to sneak into the United States to do harm? Kind of a big give away. If we are going to train kids, train them right. And second, if that kid goes into the military in a year or two and gets sent to Iraq, what's to stop him from shooting civilians? Anyone in Arab dress is a terrorist, right? 
The Explorer scout program does very good work, and I strongly support its goals, but I also believe that killing, shooting, and violence should not be glorified. Train these kids in cultural understanding, quick decision making, and restraint as well as how to put a knee in someone's back to shut him up and the law enforment agencies, the military, and the country as well as these kids will end up stronger and better served. 
(Photo: Todd Krainin, New York Times)

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