War toys, which have a way of never staying dead despite devastating battles orchestrated by children, will be buried Saturday at a mock funeral in Santa Monica.
"Everyone's invited to bring war toys that we'll bury with appropriate ceremony near the old cannon just north of the Santa Monica Pier," said Jerry Rubin, who is organizing the burial for the International War Toys Boycott, with headquarters in Toronto, Canada. Rubin is no relation to his namesake who lead the Yippees in the 1960s.
"There are close to 100 groups involved in the U.S., Canada, England, Holland, Australia and Gibraltar," said Deb Ellis, coordinator for the the International War Toys Boycott.
In the local event, the Rev. James Conn, a Santa Monica city councilman, will conduct the mock funeral service at ceremonies scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon.
Conn said he feels that war toys create for children the impression that "if you're really angry at somebody you blow 'em away. My concern is that in the social context we're making a connection between expressing anger and creating war. I think what you have to do is express feelings that aren't necessarily pleasant without hurting people."
Jackie Goldberg, Los Angeles school board member, who will give one of several two-minute talks at the "toy funeral," noted that, because children learn through play, war toys are among the reasons "we find a lot more children in crimes involving weapons. I mean children, not just teen-agers. I think the solution that 'might makes right' is a solution we can no longer accept."
Another two-minute talk will be delivered by Max Inglett, an actor, writer and former Army medic, who won a silver star, two bronze stars, two purple hearts, two army commendation medals and an air medal during 18 months in Vietnam.
Inglett, who has been confined to a wheelchair since being shot in an alleged robbery attempt (charges against him were dropped) made headlines in 1981 by hitchhiking in his wheelchair from Santa Monica to Washington, D.C., to dramatize his crusade "to forestall future U.S. involvement in undeclared wars." He describes himself as a patriot who would return to war to defend his country, and an unalterable opponent of war toys.
"Since childhood, we have been conditioned by being told it is fun to play war," he said. "I had numerous conversations in Vietnam about the fact that we are conditioned by war toys to think it's OK to kill in battle. I think we need to learn at a very early age that war is not a game . . . I was 18 in Vietnam, and I remember sitting with a buddy who was 17 there, and we were talking about 'this isn't the same as when we were playing,' and we both ended up crying because we couldn't figure out why we were killing all these people."
Toy Drive Topic
A third speaker, Mario Marroguin, will discuss his toy drive to collect Christmas toys for distribution among Central American refugee children in Los Angeles. Marroguin, who chairs the Los Angeles chapter of the Central American Refugee Committee, will accept toys brought to the war toy funeral. "But we will accept no war toys," he said.
Besides speakers, the mock funeral will include a presentation by performance artist Rachel Rosenthal and group singing led by singer/song writer Joanna Cazden.
After the toys are buried in a grave marked with a headstone designed by Santa Monica artist Mallory Pearce, they will be dug up and shipped to the War Toy Disarmament Project in Wells, Vt., where they will be used with other war toys to construct a peace monument dedicated to Samantha Smith, 13, who died last summer in an airplane crash.
As a 10-year-old Manchester, Me., fifth-grader, Smith visited Russia at the invitation of then Soviet President Yuri V. Andropov, to whom she had written asking, "Why do you want to conquer the whole world, or at least our country?" Andropov responded with the invitation and the message that "we in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries, so that there will be no war at all on Earth."
Longtime Peace Activist
"We're accepting suggestions from kids as to the form the monument will take," said Frank Ash, children's book author and illustrator, who asked that ideas and toys for the monument be sent c/o Rural Route 1, Box 1010, Wells, Vt 05774.
Rubin, a longtime peace activist who gained notoriety five years ago for pushing a cream pie in the face of Edward Teller, the "Father of the H-Bomb," is collecting petition signatures in connection with his anti-war toy movement.
"I've got almost 1,000 names," he said, producing a sheaf of petitions objecting to the production and promotion of war toys and urging toy companies to "market toys that promote creativity and cooperative play."
The activist, who makes his living as an artists' model, observed that children's television shows are so saturated with advertising for war toys that the average child in this country will see 800 war toy ads and 250 episodes of war-oriented cartoons this year.
He cited figures published by the National Coalition on Television Violence indicating a 350% increase in war toy sales in the past two years in what is now a $1 billion annual industry.
Rubin singled out a planned Rambo action figure for particular attack, saying he will try to meet with Sylvester Stallone, who played Rambo in two movies, to seek the actor's support in opposing sales of the articulated plastic figure that will be about 6 inches tall.
A Talk With Stallone
"We don't want to confront Sylvester Stallone," Rubin said. "We want to discuss this with him and try to get him to use his influence to keep the Rambo doll off the market."
A spokesman for Stallone said, "We're not involved with that (action figure). We have no comment."
Barbara Wruck, vice president of Coleco Industries, Inc., which will produce the Rambo figure, said, "We intend to begin shipping the action figure this spring, to coincide with the airing of the first 5 parts of an animated Rambo TV series for kids, to be followed in the fall by 60 more half hour episodes. Our product will work in conjunction with that animated series . . . we plan to emphasize the qualities of patriotism, loyalty and love of country."
Wruck, whose company also markets the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, said the Rambo figure will not emphasize violence.
The children's Rambo shows will have a different slant from the Rambo movies, said Amy Kastens, a spokeswoman for Carolco Service, Inc., which represents Anabasis Investments, the group that produced the Rambo movies and sells licensing rights for Rambo products.
Departure From Rambo
"The character is newly created and a departure from Rambo the movie character," Kastens said.
"In the cartoon . . . no good guys will ever fire a weapon at a person. No one, good or bad, will ever die in the cartoon. The only types of weapons to be used will be used to cut ropes, things of that sort."
Even more than keeping a given toy off the market, Rubin would like to see Saturday's war toy burial ceremony result in "a dialogue between all interested parties: media, toy manufacturers, peace movement activists, educators, government officials, children and parents. It's an issue that's rarely talked about. This is a beginning."