I know the temptation is there. You probably have a niece or nephew and you just don’t know what to get them for Christmas/Hanukah/Etc. Or let’s be honest: You just don’t want to take the time to figure out what to get them. So you’re standing in line at the bank one afternoon, and then it hits you: Savings Bonds! You’ll get them Savings Bonds!
At the time, it seems like the perfect gift. It’s easy. But more than just that, you think it’ll make you look like the responsible aunt or uncle, one who sees the importance of instilling today’s youth with the value of thrift, blah, blah, blah.
Well, stop. Please—for the sake of all those dead little children in Gaza and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan—stop. I’ll post more pictures of dead children if you don’t listen to me. I swear I will.
Don’t buy Savings Bonds.
First of all, the rates stink. Secondly—and most importantly—when you buy a Savings Bond, you’re just loaning money to the federal government. And why would you want to do that? It’s bad enough that you’re already being forced to subsidize their evil wars, so why would you choose to give them more money?
So if Savings Bonds are out, what do I recommend? Well books, of course.
That’s what I generally get my nieces for Hanukah. (Sometimes, in an attempt to maintain my “cool uncle” status, I’ll also throw in a stuffed animal.) I’m very selective, of course. I realize that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives being inundated with lies, being told that Lincoln fought to free the slaves, that Truman had no other choice but to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc., so I want to do my part to start them out on the right path.
This year I bought them a picture book entitled The Upstairs Cat, a tale of two cats, an upstairs cat and a downstairs cat, who are always fighting. As one reviewer writes, “This battle continues week after week, year after year, until the fed-up author declares that ‘nothing is dumber than war. Is that clear?’”
I also bought them Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale, which one—disgruntled—Amazon reviewer describes as follows:
For the third time in as many books, Marcus Pfister passes along the lesson “Be nice to others.” That was the moral of the story in The Rainbow Fish; it was also the moral in Rainbow Fish to the Rescue. Why Mr. Pfister felt it necessary to bludgeon the reader over the head with it yet again in Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale is truly beyond me.
Of course, I’m glad Mr. Pfister chose to “bludgeon” his readers with this lesson. It’s an important lesson, one that I wish certain war-escalating American presidents had been bludgeoned with while growing up.
If you’re buying for a teenager, I’d recommend the recently-released IraqiGirl. IraqiGirl is a memoir of an Iraqi teenager who came of age under US military occupation. Although Hadiya lived through extraordinary circumstances, she herself seems like a fairly typical teenage girl, which is exactly why this book is so important. Because if we can just get this one point across to young people—that those brown-skinned people living overseas really aren’t all that different from us—then we’d be doing a whole lot for the cause of peace.
Of course, there are many other antiwar books out there—some, like Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, have pretty blatant antiwar messages; others, like the ones I’ve described above, have much subtler messages. It turns out that even Dr. Seuss wrote an antiwar book. Maybe this is old news to you, but I just learned that The Butter Battle Book is actually an allegory about the Cold War, with the US and USSR represented by the Yooks and the Zooks.
A great breakdown of antiwar books for young people, from toddlers to teenagers, can be found here.