`Good Guys,' `Bad Guys' Politics: 3-Year-Old's Toys Reflect Same Culture of Dualism Exhibited by U.S. Leaders (Column)

By Ruether, Rosemary Radford | National Catholic Reporter, September 27, 2002 | Go to article overview

`Good Guys,' `Bad Guys' Politics: 3-Year-Old's Toys Reflect Same Culture of Dualism Exhibited by U.S. Leaders (Column)


Ruether, Rosemary Radford, National Catholic Reporter


My 3-year-old grandson, Joey, lives in a fantasy world divided between "good guys" and "bad guys." This division is, of course, not based on his actual daily life, his experience with his mother, father and older brother Nicolas, friends and relatives. Rather it is derived from television, from war and "spacemen" games and toys that reflect television programs.

Once I overheard him with several such toys in his hands mutter ing about "good guys" and "bad guys" and I remarked to him that people really were not divided between "good guys" and "bad guys." Rather people were mixed, some parts good and some parts bad or not so good. He looked at me uncomprehendingly. Clearly Grandmother did not know what she was talking about. He had it on good evidence (from television and the toys he held in his hands) that the world was indeed divided between "good guys" and "bad guys."

Our public political culture is also divided between "good guys" and "bad guys." The political rhetoric of President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft speaks unhesitatingly of "bad guys," implying that most Americans or at least themselves are unswervingly the "good guys." When asked why various people have been jailed without charges or access to lawyers and other basic elements of due process, we are assured that they don't deserve such niceties because they are "bad guys." The worldview of the television and war toys of my grandson and that of the top political leaders of my country belong to the same mentality, indeed are manufactured by the same cultural production. This is frightening.

Such a primal dualism is disturbing in a 3-year-old, but one can hope that he can be educated out of such a view by the time he is 6 or 7. But when it is reproduced in the leaders of the mightiest military and economic power in the world, it is a danger to human survival on earth. How has the United States, a country of fairly educated people, come to swallow such a worldview passively and with little protest and indeed to feed it to their children from the earliest age? …

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