Guns and bunnies at the Marts 

Hey, kiddos! The Easter Bunny says: armed military combat is fun! Yes, just when you thought crass commercialism couldn’t get any crasser, Kmart and Wal-Mart have taken the arguably psychotic plunge into selling the “Easter Jubilee Military Combat Set.” Sitting on the shelves in your Missoula Kmart and Wal-Mart next to the pink bunny baskets and the ribbon-laden basket full of Barbie dolls with impossibly slim figures, the combat set features not only Skittles and M&M’s, but also soldiers armed with extra rounds of ammunition, an artillery gun, knife, Army chopper, ominously closed black suitcase (could there be little mock chemical agents inside?) and what appears to be an oil tanker truck (presumably so the child has something to “liberate”). The soldiers look like your basic hearty Americans, and they and their arsenal are set before a random battlefield map that sets Brooklyn, Oxford and the Bay of Fundy in the same general neighborhood (hopefully the kids won’t attempt to learn their geography from the battle map).

Both Missoula’s Kmart and Wal-Mart stores had the Easter Jubilee Military Combat Set in stock when the Indy took a peek about a week before Easter, but sales staff in both stores were reluctant to discuss the item, instead suggesting that a call be placed to their respective corporate offices.

However, friendly Kmart manager Jane did say that there had been complaints in both Missoula and Billings.

“I will say, on the other hand, that we’ve had a lot of people come in and praise us for having that [basket] with the war going on,” she said.

Jane later clarified that a lot translates to two.

Meanwhile, far from the Garden City, the Easter combat set has sparked protests in a Manhattan Kmart. Several religious groups have declared that the baskets stand in direct contradiction to the spirit of renewal that Easter has traditionally stood for.

In an interview with the Village Voice, Bishop George Packard, who oversees spiritual care for Episcopalian members of the armed services, 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. I am…so confounded by this bad taste.”

Kmart corporate representatives Bernadette Alison and Abigail Jacobs said that they’ve been selling the military-themed Easter baskets “for years,” and that this is the first year they’ve received complaints. Jacobs said that Kmart has given its store managers the option to pull the baskets from the shelves, but that so far, only two stores have chosen to do so.

Wal-Mart reps were more elusive, fending off questions with a drab faxed statement: “We have carried Easter baskets featuring military toys for more than 10 years and have found military toys are very popular with our customers…We respect the views of all of our customers and will continue to listen to any concerns they may have on this offering.” After all, isn’t that what Jesus would do?

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