Home > Art > The “War” of the 10-year-olds

The “War” of the 10-year-olds

A while back I wrote about remembering what it felt like to be ten years old (“Being Ten”). It was that wonderful age of newfound independence when everything seems fresh and innocent. They have yet to learn some of the harsher realities of the world and see everything as “totally awesome!” 

This summer I painted a couple of murals in the same household. For the 12-year-old girl, I painted a gentle scene of Paris, complete with her family members and her pets. 

Her 10-year-old brother was looking for something more “active” — maybe fire-breathing dragons? Wolves being attacked by aliens? Wow… I wasn’t sure my imagination was that elastic anymore. I let him blow through his wildest thoughts and because (today) he wants to be a pilot when he grows up, we settled on painting an A-10 Thunderbolt II warplane, nicknamed “The Warthog”. 

We did some research. I found a little model airplane online and looked at some pictures and videos of the “tank buster”. What a world this opened up to me…

My father served for a time as a belly gunner in the Army Air Corps during WWII. Color-blindness ended his hopes of being a pilot, so he flew around in the exposed bottom of the plane, alternating between shooting guns and shooting photographs of the landscape below. Those were the early planes, crude by today’s standards, but they changed the world.

According to the official website of the US Air Force (www.af.mil), “A-10/OA-10 Thunderbolt IIs have excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and are highly accurate weapons-delivery platforms. They can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate under 1,000-foot ceilings (303.3 meters) with 1.5-mile (2.4 kilometers) visibility. Their wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines. Using night vision goggles, A-10/OA-10 pilots can conduct their missions during darkness. The aircraft can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. Their self-sealing fuel cells are protected by internal and external foam. Manual systems back up their redundant hydraulic flight-control systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power is lost. ” 

How cool is that?! I found myself feeling unexpectedly excited. I felt TEN again! The part of me that recoils at the horrors of war and violence mysteriously vanished, so I set out to work. I painted menacing clouds, a snearing face, and guns that could shoot 3900 imaginary bullets per minute! The voice of my inner pacifist was being drown out by engines capable of 9,065 pounds of thrust…

My young friend was on vacation with his family for a week while I painted. I was pretty happy with the outcome and waited to hear from him when he got back. They knocked on my door and said, “It’s cool, but we don’t think it’s finished”. It’s not easy to hear that someone isn’t satisfied with your work, but I’m getting more patient about it. “What’s missing?” I asked, teeth gritted.

“We want some mountains and a tank blowing up!” Yeah…just when I thought I had contributed enough violence to the nightmares of a little boy — goes to show you how far out of the loop I am. 

By this time, my conscience had reasserted itself. Though I was happy with the artistic result of the mural, I was concerned about whether I was compromising my own morals in glorifying this sort of destruction. After all, we are in the middle of an unpopular war. Did I really want to encourage this sort of thing in our future generations?

I agreed to make the modification, but as I set up my supplies, I felt that I needed to at least let him know my reservations. His mother was there too, and though my voice felt a little shaky as I spoke, I told him how I felt about it.  I acknowledged that his idea sounded really neat (at least it did to my inner 10-year-old) but that he needed to think about what it really meant for a tank to be blowing up. He said, “It’s okay, they’re just practicing”, to which I replied, “That may be, but someday, there will be somebody in that tank, maybe somebody’s dad or mom”. I saw a flash of understanding, and his mom added a few comments about war herself. I felt better and didn’t really have to compromise my beliefs…too much.

So we came to an agreement. I would paint the tanks and the mountains, but instead of the tank blowing up, we would paint a plume of smoke in the background behind the mountains, implying that there had been an explosion SOMEwhere….

My aunt, the art teacher, in response to my concerns about encouraging violence simply said, “I can remember some pretty intense games of cops and robbers when we were kids, and I think we turned out okay when we grew up”. True that…

Categories: Art
  1. Cheryl
    August 28, 2008 at 2:18 am

    Hey Ellen, speaking of being ten…my freshly turned ten-year old became a Walpole Middle School student today!! She appears none the worse for wear, although her start was a bit of a challenge. The bus picked her up 20 minutes late & when she & another girl went to their classroom, there was no class to be found!! Someone told them to check the gym; alas no fifth graders there! Someone else told them to check the art room and that’s where she finally found her classmates. Jackie Jones is her teacher!! Boy, that building brings back memories…and it still smells the same, too! ~~Cheryl

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