Armed soldiers replace bunnies in this year's Easter baskets

The Pope — who's been lobbying against war in Iraq — isn't gonna like this. National retailers including Kmart, Rite Aid and Walgreens are selling Easter baskets in which the traditional choco-bunny centerpiece is replaced with plastic gun-toting miltary action figures.

At the Astor Place Kmart, the encampment is on display just inside the main entrance. A camouflaged sandy-haired soldier with an American-flag arm patch stands alert in a teal, pink, and yellow basket beneath a pretty green-and-purple bow. Within a doll-arm's reach are a machine gun, rifle, hand grenade, large knife, pistol, and round of ammunition. In the next basket a buzz-cut blond with a snazzy dress uniform hawks over homeland security, an American eagle shield on his arm, and a machine gun, pistol, Bowie knife, two grenades, truncheon, and handcuffs at the ready.

One must hunt a little harder to find the Easter sniper at Walgreens, but what lies in wait among the bunnies and chicks there is perhaps even more surreal. The Super Wrriors (sic) Battle Set and Placekeepers (sic) Military Men Play Set bristle with toy assault rifles and machine guns, tanks, troop transports, bomber planes, commanded by armored men with shaved heads and sunglasses. The assortment also includes a space-age ray gun and other imaginary hardware for orbital combat. Packets of jellybeans are tossed in as if an afterthought, nestled in the cellophane underbrush like anti-personnel mines.

Not surprisingly, the merger of religious observance and jingoistic lust sparked the ire of Christian leaders. Bishop George Packard, who oversees spiritual care for Episcopalian members of the armed services, worries about practical issues. He's concerned about creating a backlash against the military, and questions the message sent to Muslims by the melding of a Christian holiday with images of war.

Link to Village Voice story, Discuss (Thanks Higgins!)