Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Peter Shulman's War

I found a really amazing website this weekend: Peter Shulman's War. It's difficult to explain the site. You have to go there and see it for yourself. After reading Mr. Shulman's introductory / explanatory story I think his war's being fought against the forces which try to criminalize and destroy childhood generally, and his own childhood in particular. It may seem to some that his resistance has taken an extreme form. But aren't the forces arrayed against childhood formidable? Even the mighty Green Army can only keep them at bay for a year at a time.

Peter Shulman's War has three things I like. One of them is toy soldiers, tanks, and airplanes. Those are good things. Myself, I'd have a dragon-infested forest surrounded by several medieval kingdoms. I figure about 300 dragons would do. (Could you imagine building a Great Dragon out of Alien vinyl kit parts? - Shudder -). I'd have a few castles, lots of villages, and about 10,000 toy figures. Every spring, the Dragons would emerge from slumber and resume their predations on the crops, livestock, and people of the realm. A boy king might be manipulated by evil advisers who are intriguing with the Dragons to conquer the world. The Eastern Empire (a terrifying alliance of samurai, saracen, and viking toys) might invade. Thank goodness for the Military Order of St. Michael the Archangel!

That takes leisure, the kind of leisure only wealth enables. It's always been that way, of course; it can't be helped and there's no use in anyone's envious whining about it. No, Mr. Shulman's not using all the otium he's put into his war to write philosophy, Free Tibet[TM], or do other things which "really matter." Half of that kind of reaction is just covetous resentment got up in drag as an ethical proposition. Lots of people, most of whom are Americans, would be better off if they stopped trying to do things which "really mattered" and started playing in the woods with toys. Preferably they'd play with their children, who might then be rescued from the childhood-destroying, innocence-hating culture of whom Brittney Spears and psychotic little-league parents are just symptoms.

Peter Shulman's War is also eccentric. I value eccentricity. An eccentric is usually just a personality who's refused to grow neatly along the trellis of bourgeois life. Catholics are generally eccentric, although we don't think of ourselves that way. We adorn our churches with nativity scenes and parade statues of the Blessed Virgin through the streets with a joyous sense of pageantry that flows from the same spring that produces Mr. Shulman's delight in the Green Army's annual advance into the forest. We like colors and bright things, gargoyles and stained-glass, because we're children immersed in the fascinating world God has made for us to play in. I don't think we built St. Peter's Basilica just because It Is Our Duty As Catholics To Produce Magnificent Edifices. I think we built it because it's beautiful, and because God is beautiful, we ought to have beautiful places in which to think about and worship Him. There's something very dignified about that, and something equally dignified about Peter Shulman's War.

So I'm proud to announce that, hopefully this summer, I'll be flying an F-4G in Peter Shulman's War as a newly-minted Lieutenant in the 52nd Attack Squadron, VI Attack Wing, 5th (Green) Air Force. The 52nd does "Wild Weasel" missions; we fly around daring the Gray Army's AA and SAM batteries to shoot us down. When they try it we blow them up, making the skies safer for the rest of our Green pilots. I've noticed, however, that just about all the officers above me are flying the F-105. I wonder how I got the newer plane? (The best planes go to experienced pilots, Stachel. But at flight school they . . . . Flight School! At flight school they'll tell you anything. You'll take the Pfalz. And Stachel . . . . Let's hope you get to like us.) I'm going to enjoy this. All summer, when things are bleak, I can think about a field of green grass, where the air is hot from the sun and cicadas buzz near sleepy dogs . . . . Zzzzooooommmmm! . . . . there I go flashing through the trees in my F-4G, shrikes underwing, ready to strike the Grey Forces. Thank you, Peter Shulman.

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