Is Pokemon the root of all Evil?

First Pokemon was the subject of a class action lawsuit in which some parents allege that the cards promote gambling. Now Nintendo is halting production of a card because of a symbol that resembles the Nazi swastika?
         Let's address the gambling issue. I guess those parents never collected sports cards, or their kids prefer Pokemon to baseball. I purchased at random a pack of Topps "1999 Major League Baseball Cards Series 2" at my local supermarket. "Win Home Town Tickets!" it screams on the wrapper, along with "Randomly inserted: Nolan Ryan Reprints" and "Plus Refractors." Flipping the pack over, what do we see? There are special or "chase" cards that are not a regular part of the set.  The odds of winning a Nolan Ryan reprint is 1: 18, (the best set of odds for this particular pack) an All-Topps Mystery Finest Refractors 1:144 and the biggest odds of all, a Nolan Ryan autograph-1 in 31,107 packs. Contrast that with the Pokemon cards, where the odds of getting a holographic foil is 1 in every 3 packs, substantially better than any of the chase cards in the Topps baseball pack. So where's the people banding together against baseball, football and all the other sports and saying that they promote gambling? Why haven't sports cards been banned?
         And while we're at it, let's take a walk down my street to the boardwalk. Fun for kids, right? Wrong! Walk into any arcade and what do we see? Slot machines! Put in a nickel, a dime, or a quarter for a chance to get some tokens redeemable for prizes. It's not guaranteed that one will get any tokens back, however. Sure sounds like gambling to me. And yet parents continue to take their kids to these arcades.
         And where does this one 9-year-old kid come up with $2000 to spend on cards in six months, anyway, as reported in "The New York Times"? That's more disposable income than I have as a working thirty-year old, and I like Pokemon! Do the parents know where all this money is coming from? Do the parents care?
         Now Nintendo is halting production of two cards because they carry a "manji," which resembles the Nazi swastika. The manji is a mirror image of the Nazi symbol, and means good fortune in some Asian cultures. Never mind. One person is calling for Nintendo to make a contribution to a Holocaust group. And yet, as the director of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, a Jew, stated, "This has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years and has nothing to do with Nazis or anti-Semitism. There are plenty of things out there that people should be offended about. Put your indignation into some more productive and appropriate fight."
         He's right. For all the dumbing down of the cartoon since it was transplanted from the original Japanese, there are a lot of redeeming qualities about the Pokemon show. Ash, the 10-year-old main focus of the show, learns about himself, his friends, and about life in his quest to be a Pokemon Master. Brock, who accompanies him, single-handedly raised his ten brothers and sisters after his mom died and his father ran off. Misty, the third person in this group, tries to uncover her own self-worth and be her own person, rejecting her claim to fame as one of the Sensational Sisters of Cerulean City.
         Enough is enough. Take charge and take control instead of pointing fingers and assigning blame. Sit down, watch a few episodes, look at the cards, and discuss with your children and us "older kids" the latest craze that is Pokemon.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find out, both about Pokemon and your children.

Hartriono Sastrowardoyo
Seaside Heights, NJ


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