A Minute to Myself (193)
A New School Year

The Symbolism of the Garbage

The other morning when I threw the garbage out in the little enclosed area that contains the garbage bins, there were two empty boxes. The boxes were for two different kinds of nerf weaponry. Both of them seemed to be of machine guns. From the picture they both looked big, they both were supposed to simulate the real thing, although the brown and orange colors were probably a give-away. The weapon in the bigger box included an ammunition belt that could be slung over the shoulder.

A few days before there was another empty box in the garbage area that caught my attention. It was for a beer pong table. I didn’t know that there was such a thing. I had heard of beer pong (and do not laugh and say I’m lying when I say I have never played the game) but I didn’t know that there was equipment to purchase.

Unlike my very annoying and nosy downstairs neighbor, I don’t know all of the people who live in my new neighborhood. But I have my suspicions as to who goes with which box. There are two quite buff and attractive young twenty-something men (one is a slightly smaller version of the romance novel cover guy, Fabio; my daughter looked shocked at me when I told her he was handsome) who I suspect have called dibs on the beer pong table. And either they, too, can claim ownership to the guns, or the two red-headed brothers who my daughter might babysit for if she is ever here long enough, what with visiting my parents, going to camp, going to the beach with a friend, having sleepovers with other hair-straightening friends, oh, and being at her father’s house, she hasn’t had the time. But I could be wrong, the hunks might also own the machine guns.

While I am not in the habit of checking out people’s garbage, I was startled/annoyed/upset by those boxes. I even did a double-take, reading that the beer pong table was in accordance with an organization (I think it was the Beer Pong Federation). Seriously, official equipment for a drinking game? And the guns. I just stared (putting my head at a sideways angle) at the picture of the cute boy who could just as easily be in an ad for milk holding this huge gun imitating some macho gunslinger movie hero. What? It’s not enough to feel masculine with a little revolver, they need body-size machine guns? 

For weeks now I have been reading about the health care debate and how it’s so heated. I even went to a town hall meeting the other night and was witness to the screeching and shouting and rudeness (post to come; note, on top of an official sign I wrote “Healthcare Not Warfare” on my proudly-raised sign). Is it no wonder that our society is so loud and unhearing when our foundation seems to be non-existent? I know it’s a leap, but seriously, guns as toys and mindless drinking games are not new, but they seem to have become so cornerstone or so emblematic that it’s no wonder that there is no problem with throwing money at the military but none to drop in a bucket for the sick.

Is it silly or simplistic for me to tie those boxes into the healthcare reform debate or even the health of the country? No. As the English teacher I will resume being next week, they are symbols—standing for themselves and something else. Guns. Well, the worth of a life is surely one thing. So, too, is the ability to think that your life and beliefs are more important than someone else’s. And drinking. Becoming numb—casting off thoughts or doubts or concerns or questions for blankness. Every time I hear people (even the wonderfully gentlemanly director of the writing program class I took this summer) talk about getting drunk to celebrate something it makes me wonder why people want to deaden their minds? Is that why people can believe untruths so easily, because not only are they not used to thinking for themselves, but even thinking itself is disparaged? I can imagine that the thoughts one has might be so painful that haze is better, but at some point, the haze must be cleared.

This debate is surely about more than healthcare. It is about the mental health of our nation as a collective whole. Behind the chants “Yes We Can” and “No You Won’t” there is a pushing and a pulling to and against what it means to be an American, about what America stands for.

What I perceive as garbage (I would have preferred the boxes and their contents in the garbage) is someone else’s gift that was saved for and anticipated. Maybe the most that can be hoped for is that one person can’t deny another person her gift. Yes, that seems right. And perhaps the person carrying the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag should look at how her pronouncements would deny someone else what she sorely wants—and needs.



Very interesting how you were able to look at that garbage and perceive the shift in our society in general. I think you have something there.
From a silly game played at a bar with whatever was on hand to an organized, planned event with an outcome of who gets the drunkest...
Play guns have been around a long time. They have fulfilled many little boys' fantasies of being heroes or being powerful and in control - is it a wonder this society has produced people like ex-man? The saddest thing about finding the nerf boxes in the trash is the realization that we have learned so little and as long as there is a buck to be made, children's minds will be filled with false images of daring-do.
It is not a long leap from the trash bin to see where else sickness dwells in our society. We are rude, uncaring, negligent and lazy.
I can only hope there are actually many more rational people out here who will prevail even over top of all the screed.

Liz A.

Honestly, I think it's just immaturity. If we're going with a society analogy, we have given adults in their 20's (adults being the key word) a bit of a free pass on responsibility and growing up to "find yourself." I've heard more than once, males aren't real men until they're 30 these days. BS.

Have you seen The American President? At the end, there's a speech about being an American. What it should mean and how tolerance and standing up for your beliefs can go hand in hand. 15 years ago it was just a movie, but I watched it the other day and it gave me chills. We have declined as a society.

I do not blame most people for their irrationality. I've spent my entire life in the South. It's pretty much a constant spew of Fox News. For a lot of people, it's all they hear.

And I really like to get drunk. It's just fun, but maybe because I attended a "party school" and that's what I associate with fun, but it's not a party without booze. I think it affects people differently and almost everyone has a life choice they abuse, some more socially correct than others. Alcohol is across the world, I don't find it very emblematic myself.


The speech at the end of The American President is a classic. It's the idea of what our country could be/should be; what we're capable of.

I'm not a fan of real guns or fake guns. The desire to play with them must come from the caveman brain that seems to reside in every man to a greater or lesser extent. I've watched my son (who is not violent in the least and wouldn't hurt a fly) and his friends bop each other over the head with nerf-type toys (like those long noodles) and laugh while they're doing it.

It is sad that we've spent the money that could have paid for universal healthcare over in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can do so much better as a society.


oh, man, I love that speech in The American President!

I can't say I don't get it at all. I have certainly drowned my sorrows in alcohol at times, but I don't understand making a sport of it.

I'm saddened by my loss of hope these days. You'd appreciate a sign posted somewhere about how we're in America, and our language is English...and language was spelled incorrectly.


How right you are. I'm always astounded that there is ALWAYS money to throw into war, but for things like education, which is about producing the next generation of adults, and health which is about taking care of all of us, both mentallly and physically, money isn't available.

We aren't talking about individual people who need help in education, or just ill people. We're talking about the effect a lack of quality and availability in these areas has on society now and in the future. No wonder we still believe we can have peace through killing people.

As for toy guns. As a 4 year old my daughter wanted a water pistol. Me, being raised with a father who taught me how to use an air rifle at 6, that I was quite adept at in a very short space of time, then shot myself in the leg with at age 11, decided that my daughter wasn't going to have anything even vaguely resembling a gun, so instead of a water pistol I gave her a water spray bottle. I caught her a couple of days latter shooting imaginary tigers up trees, calling out "Pill, Pill" instead of 'kill, kill,' whilst shooting her spray bottle.

Yet even without a gun through her childhood, and me very clearly stating my point of view on violence, and war, she as a teenager, played a particular competitive violent shooting game on the internet. I was appalled, but she assured me she was very clear on the difference between game and reality.....my beautiful pacifist daughter?????


But what of Purim?

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