Freedom Fighters

Call of Duty: Black Ops

As the uprisings in the Arab world intensify, we’ve heard a lot about the influence of the internet, Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

But, what about war games?

My 12 year old son, Alex, loves to play his Play Station 3 and talk with the other players online.  They trash talk each other when they’re on opposing teams and work out strategies when they’re on the same team.

He also talks incessantly to me about his video games.  So, when he was droning on about “Call of Duty: Black Ops” this Friday evening, I was hardly impressed with how it’s “super-realistic” and “totally awesome.”  He’s told me about his opponents who live in California, Boston, and even Canada.  That seems cool.  I had to play Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt all by myself.  My sister who lived in the same house didn’t even care.

Protesters in Yemen

Then my boy told me one of his fellow PS3 enthusiasts lives in Yemen.

“Really?” I asked.


“And he speaks English?”

“Yeah.  Enough to play Black Ops.”

“Oh,” I said.  “What else do y’all talk about?” I asked.

“Well, he told me he wishes their president would just leave.  He thinks they ought to get a chance to have peace and freedom,” Alex said.

“Freedom so they can just shoot each other in video games only?”  I asked, now extra interested in the irony of a peace-seeking kid playing a game that’s been derided as extremely violent by its critics.

“Yeah, that would be fine,” Alex said.  “If people don’t want the president, why would he stay?”

Amazing.  My son was having a conversation about a revolution via his game console.  I didn’t expect that when I shelled out $300 for it.  I mean, they told me the graphics would be cool and all.

I met a young man who’s studying at Indiana University to be a journalist.  He’d like to bring the stories of his home, Kashmir, to the forefront.  The journalist-in-training told me the disputed region has had recent protests much larger than what we’ve seen in the Arab world.  He said they’re crying out for freedom and democracy.  “Freedom to shoot each other in video games only?” I wondered, thinking about my son and his Yemini friend/virtual foe.

I told him someday, hopefully soon, those places will have the modern American version of an uprising:  An election.

The 2008 election was an uprising against the Republican rule of the previous decade.  The 2010 election was a smaller uprising against President Obama’s policies.  In our uprisings, we don’t shoot each other.  We’ve traded bullets for ballots.  People here tend to get frustrated because we have to wait two whole years for their revolutions.  That would be the blink of an eye for someone living under Moammar Gadhafi for four decades.

All this, for me, brings this song to mind:

Boys love to play soldier. They like to shoot guns and hunt targets. Maybe someday the fights will only happen in their video games and their opponents will really be their friends, even if they live in different worlds.

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