BlackLion and I have recently, through our drumming with the Dark Follies vaudeville troupe, gotten involved in the steampunk movement (click here if you'd like to learn more about what that means). We attended the Steampunk World's Fair in New Jersey last weekend, and had such a fun time! If you link up with me on Facebook, you can see my photo album. The costumes are so creative and fantastical that I could have sat in one place, just people-watching!
Not only did we enjoy performing and hanging out with the troupe, we also got to connect with some unschooling friends.When we returned from the trip, I was looking through Facebook at the pictures other people had posted. My friend Dayna, who was there because of her son's passion for all things steampunk, had posted a picture of him in his costume, which included a replica of a flintlock gun. I noticed there were a lot of comments, and started to read them. I was amazed to find that a couple of people were objecting to seeing a young teenager in a "warlike" costume, and even offended that she would "let" him be part of this type of event. They seemed truly offended by the photo.
Why was I so astonished? I'd attended the full three days of the festival, and despite the presence of weapons as part of some of the costumes, I'd seen nothing at all to indicate violence or conflict. The vast majority of the folks at the festival were polite and jovial. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the shows and vendors, and although alcohol was being served and consumed, I never witnessed any fights or altercations. The festival attendees were there to have fun, show off their creations, and connect with others.
I'm a very peaceful and non-violent person, and it never occurred to me to look askance at the stories that were being spun as part of the steampunk genre. ElvenTiger and Dayna's son hung out together at the festival, and part of their play was having mock battles. In fact, when we were getting ready to leave, they said farewell by staging a "big final battle," which took place on the midway, with BlackLion providing a dramatic drum soundtrack. They were so clearly playing, having fun exploring ways of being in the world, that it never triggered any fears or worries that they would bring real violence into their experience. They, like the other attendees, were exercising their imaginations.
As someone who values peace as well as imagination, I strive to honor creative expressions of all types and stripes. I don't think that playing violent video games, re-enacting historic battles, or role-playing swords and sorcery leads to more violence in the world. In fact, I see these as healthy ways to channel the natural aggression that we brought forth from our earlier days as humans. We are evolving, and by expressing ourselves creatively, we unlock new ideas and ways we wish the world to be. Rather than fearing the actions of those who act or dress differently than we do, particularly teens and young adults, let's look deeper and honor their unique self-expression. We teach by example, and what better lessons than living our ethics and valuing the diversity of human experience?