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Military-Themed Easter Baskets Spark Controversy

Retailers, eager to turn a profit, have turned traditional Easter baskets filled with candy and bunny paraphernalia into battle baskets complete with toy soldiers, plastic knives and play grenades.

Perhaps a sign of the times, these military-themed baskets are flying off the shelves, according to retailers. And at $10 to $20 a basket, kids can have their candy and blow it up too.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
The Independent Florida Sun reported that area K-mart, Wal-Mart and Walgreen’s stores are pushing the military Easter baskets.
Ann Lienczewski, manager of a <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Florida K-mart, told the Sun that whether filled with superheroes or Navy SEALs, themed baskets are getting even hotter as Easter approaches. 
A visit to a New York City area store might turn up “a camouflaged sandy-haired soldier with an American flag arm patch” complete with a machine gun, rifle, hand grenade, large knife, pistol and a round of ammunition, the Village Voice reported.  
Or kids might prefer the buzz-cut blonde soldier in his dress uniform, sporting an American eagle shield on his arm, and a machine gun, pistol, Bowie knife, two grenades, truncheon and handcuffs.

Easter baskets have also been invaded by complete battle sets with tanks, troop transports, bomber planes, and of course, scattered among the green plastic Easter grass is an odd assortment of traditional Easter fare like Jelly Beans and Peeps—for target practice, no doubt. 
Parents and child advocates alike are outraged at the mixing of violent toys with an otherwise peace-focused holiday. 
Bishop George Packard, who oversees spiritual care for Episcopalian military personnel, told the Village Voice that he is worried about the message such toys send to Muslims by the melding of a Christian holiday with images of war. 
The products are “really, really bizarre,” Packard said. “It’s a crass embrace of the far end of a range of options for parents to provide their kids. Easter baskets have been deteriorating for a long time, but they’ve really gone over the edge.” 
The Lion & Lamb Project, a child advocacy group that studies the effects of violent entertainment, has issued an action alert for parents. 
Daphne White, the group’s executive director, said in a statement that “to market war as something fun … [sends children] a very dangerous message.”
White said, “Up to the age of 8, it’s hard for them to differentiate between fantasy and reality.” 
But retailers are on the defensive about accusations of promoting violent toys. 
“There was no intention on our part to offer up a violent Easter basket,” K-mart spokeswoman Abigail Jacobs told the Village Voice. “We’re very conscious of what will and what will not offend our customers. It was meant to be a lighthearted and fun gift. It’s in my opinion a harmless toy included in an Easter basket.” 
Jacobs said K-mart had only received six complaints nationwide about the baskets. But cops arrested a New York City mom dressed like a bunny at an area K-mart earlier this month. Police were reluctant to arrest Amy Hamilton-Thibert, who was simply holding a sign protesting the sale of the military-themed Easter baskets, according to the Voice
Walgreen’s has since vowed to pull all the battle baskets from their shelves 
Carol Hively, corporate spokeswoman for Walgreen’s, said in a statement that the baskets were ordered last summer and were part of a mix of baskets. 
“I’m not sure we were aware of the nature of these toys,” Hively told Gannett News Service. After giving the matter a closer look, Hively said it “seemed incongruous to us.”

Wal-Mart, on the other hand, is not ready to call the retreat on its military-themed baskets. 
“We share in the pride of Americans toward our service men and women,” Karen Burk, Wal-Mart spokeswoman, told Gannett News. “We think many of our customers will enjoy the baskets as toy soldiers have proven to be a popular toy for many years.” 
Jodi Mathews is news writer for EthicsDaily.com.