“This Mother’s Day I will be thinking of a white Christmas”

Wars divide families sometimes for decades. In this moving story, Helen Krutz writes of three sisters torn apart by war, but whose children are finally reuniting 70 years later.

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Early this year, 2014, my sister Anita called with the news that our cousin Jeannie from Australia would be visiting Niagara Falls. Before this, the most recent contact we had had between our continents was the sharing of sad news. Our mothers had passed away.

Jeannie had asked a very Aussie question. “Is Niagara Falls anywhere close to you?” I, living in Montreal, replied to Anita in Gatineau, Quebec, that this could be a very interesting road trip indeed. We joked around with our eldest sister in Quebec City. After the joking was done we investigated the question of how long Jeannie would be here. In fact her whole trip would start in New York City for 3 days and then a one day stop in Niagara Falls, followed by a cruise out of Vancouver!

I have 5 siblings and by now word had spread to the youngest sister in Montreal and our brother in Edmonton. My brother remarked that we would never be able to afford a trip to Australia to finally all meet together. Everyone thought that a weekend trip to New York to meet a cousin only known to us in Christmas cards and family lore was very alluring. Following along in the buzzing emails and Facebook shout-outs was another cousin, Monica, from British Columbia. Monica is the only daughter of the other of my Mom’s sisters, Meta, who also is “no longer with us”.

Our Mothers were Lithuanian. During WW2 they were evacuated to Germany where they lived in refugee camps. In payment for being “rescued from the Russians” and barely fed and poorly housed in camps, they were obliged into forced labour. Following the end of the war, each of these former Lithuanians were presented with a passport declaring them stateless. My mother made it to Canada. Successful efforts were made to bring Meta over. Lidia the last sister ended up in Australia. People apparently lined up at the Red Cross to find family and see if immigration quotas were filled to Canada or the US. Australia was always available.

I have a clear memory of my Mother crying after she opened her sister Lidia’s card from Australia. Her hand written note sent love and expressed how she missed a white Christmas. As young children, my brother and I ran outside to make snowballs and asked Mom if we could send them to our Auntie.

In May, we, the children of three sisters torn apart by war, will meet. If we round off the time frame, it will be 70 years. We didn’t realize at first that this gathering will be on Mother’s Day weekend. That brings chills of emotion!

Helen Krutz, Daughter of Emma Olga Prelip
Diagnostic Imaging Laboratory Technologist, Dawson College

Spleen à Ramallah

Seeking to experience first-hand thousands of years of history, Dawson student Simon Massicotte travelled to the Middle East to spend some time in Israel and then the West Bank. He writes that his first week in Ramallah was filled with appreciation for the warmth, resilience and cultural richness of the Palestinian people. Slowly though he began to feel war’s impact – an underlying sense of despair, which he sought to express in this poem.

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Ne leur dites pas, je vous en prie,
Ne leur dites pas que ça recommencera.
Pas aux boulangers de Manara Square;
Pas même au jeune Amir, du stand de maïs, Arafat Square;
Ni à la vieille dame aux épices, Place des Martyrs;

Ne leur dites pas, je vous en pris,
Que la guerre recommencera,
Qu’il y aura une troisième Intifada, une quatrième aussi peut-être.

Ne leur dites pas,
Surtout pas à Ibrahim, 9 ans, rencontré dans un camp de réfugiés ce matin,
Il ne parle plus depuis que les soldats sont entrés chez lui,
en pleine nuit,
pour arrêter son père.

Ne leur dites pas,
Pas à Salim, du stand de falafels à Jérusalem,
amoureux d’une juive du cartier voisin.
Ne leur dites pas leur amour brisé,
Le mur de haine qui les séparera
Lorsque la guerre reprendra;

Pas aux enfants de Bethléhem,
ni ceux de Qalandia.
Ne leur dites pas, non, je vous en pris,
ils ne verront jamais l’autre côté du mur,
et s’ils sortent, un jour,
Leurs coeurs y resteront prisonniers,
Prisonniers de l’histoire.

Ne leur dites pas les sacrifices qui les attendent;
Ne leur dites pas, je vous en pris,
Que Jérusalem est déjà perdue,
et des colonies, il y en aura de plus en plus,
de nouveaux murs aussi.

Ne leur dites pas,
pas à ces parents endeuillés,
leurs fils s’étant sacrifiés,
Ni à ces 26 prisonniers,
libérés aujourd’hui après plusieurs années.
Ne leur dites pas,
leur libération aura coûtée 1000 nouveaux logements dans les colonies.

Ne le dites surtout pas aux habitants de Bil’in,
ni à ceux de Budrus,
Ils peuvent bien protester, manifester, gagner quelques batailles,
ils ont déjà perdu la guerre
et leur histoire est déjà écrite.

Ne leur dites pas,
pas à tous ces parents,
ne leur dites pas qu’un jour on leur ravira leur terre,
qu’il n’y aura plus rien pour leurs enfants,
plus rien que quelques cailloux.
Ne leur dites pas qu’ils s’en serviront,
les tireront de toute leur force,
et qu’ils se défendront en vain.
Ils tueront, peut-être.

Que peuvent-ils bien faire devant la plus puissante armée du monde?

Ne leur dites pas,
Ils savent déjà.

Simon Massicotte
Student, Creative Arts, Literature and Languages

Confronting War’s Complexities in the Classroom

 Zainab Salbi’s reminder that there are two sides to war; a devastating film from the NFB on the aftermath of war; the psychological trauma facing many returning soldiers; an ideal classroom text to introduce war’s complexities; and the increasing global outrage against armed drones.

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Some Compelling Films and Videos that Reveal War’s Costs

 

 

Women,Wartime and the Dream of Peace

 

Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women to Women International, gives a poignant talk, where she reminds us that, in order to create lasting peace after war, we need to consider war and peace from all sides, and that includes the story of women who keep life going on.

 

We are missing a completely other side of wars. We are missing my mother’s story, who made sure with every siren, with every raid, with every cut off-of electricity, she played puppet shows for my brothers and I, so we would not be scared of the sounds of explosions. We are missing the story of Fareeda, a music teacher, a piano teacher, in Sarajevo, who made sure that she kept the music school open every single day in the four years of besiege in Sarajevo and walked to that school, despite the snipers shooting at that school and at her, and kept the piano, the violin, the cello playing the whole duration of the war, with students wearing their gloves and hats and coats. That was her fight. That was her resistance.

 

Aftermath: The Remnants of War

Filmed on location in France, Russia, Vietnam and Bosnia, director Daniel Sekulich’s award-winning NFB documentary reveals the stark truth that wars really never end.  Among its examples of war’s forgotten legacies is the stunning revelation that, if de-mining efforts in France continue at the current pace, it will take 700 years to rid France of the unexploded ordinances from WWI and WWII that litter the country.

 

Aftermath: The Remnants of War by Daniel Sekulich, National Film Board of Canada

Crash Landing/Opération Retour

This 2005 Quebec film, directed by Luc Côté, contributed to an increased willingness on the part of Canada’s government and military to acknowledge the psychological problems that confront so many returning soldiers.  Through interviews with Canadian soldiers that are disturbing, thoughtful, and at times angry, numerous veterans discuss the difficulty of revealing PTSD in a military culture that has traditionally defined it as weakness and the sense of betrayal from the institution that they had loyally served. For an interview with the director and details on the film, click here.

 

 

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An Ideal Text for a Classroom Discussion:

 “Love and Resistance in Wartime: An Interview with Chris Hedges

 

In this short text, YES! Magazine’s Sarah van Gelder interviews Chris Hedges, a former New York Times journalist who reported from the world’s war zones for decades. In this compelling discussion, perfect for the classroom, Hedges touches on the addictive power of war, the inevitability of atrocities, PTSD and the power of small acts of resistance.

When you are in a combat situation like that, you realize how easy it is to commit murder, how easy it is to commit atrocity, because you are so deathly afraid — and with good reason. But the consequences are devastating, because of what you have done is to shed innocent blood…. So you bring back not only the trauma of violence, but that deep darkness that you must carry withing you for the rest of your life — that you have been responsible for the death of innocents.

 

So it isn’t just the issue of trauma; it is, as well, an issue of morality. This is a horrible burden to inflict, especially on a young life. It’s why war should always be waged as a last resort, because the costs are so horrendous, not only to families who lose loved ones and will spend the rest of their lives grieving, but for those who return and for the rest of their lives bear these emotional and psychological burdens.

 

For the complete text, click here.

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Drone Warfare and Nonviolent Resistance:

Putting a Trial on in the Classroom

Before they fired, they hovered – their onerous, ominous buzzing casting shadows over village schools and homes, over weddings and funerals. The villagers never knew when they would fire, whether it would be at dawn, before the household woke for morning prayers, or when the men had left for the mosque, or in the middle of the day when bread baked on ovens and children played in courtyards (Benjamin 2013: 102)

A study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism: from June 2004 to mid-September 2012 between 2562-3325 people in Pakistan have been killed, including 474-881 civilians, with 176 being children (Living Under Drones: vi)

If you do something long enough, the world will accept it. The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries….. (Colonel Daniel Reisner, former head of the Israeli Defense Forces Legal Department; quoted in Benjamin: 127)

One of the today’s most desired weapons are armed drones, which are capable of flying for hours, sending back hundreds of hours of video footage and, without warning, killing a suspected “terrorist” – all with no risks for a pilot.  Assessing the number of innocent victims in the US drone wars over Pakistan and Yemen is difficult and further complicated by the fact that it is apparently US policy to consider all unidentified male victims of military age to be, by definition, combatants.  The target person’s identity is often not even known by those who give the order as the conclusion that their behavior, assessed at a distance, looks suspicious is enough to justify an attack (“Too Much Power for a President” New York Times 31 May 2012).

While only a small number of countries currently have the capacity to engage in targeted assassinations, the weapons are spreading — such is the logic of arms proliferation. However, past arms control successes, most recently the successful global landmines treaty,  have proved that an organized popular movement can succeed in changing the behavior of even major powers.

For many legal authorities, targeted killings by armed drones violate the most fundamental laws of war that accept lethal violence in self-defense only if the threat is instant, overwhelming, and if there is no other alternative. 

Global outrage is intensifying. One of the most famous actions in the United States was undertaken by 14 nonviolent activists, later named the Creech 14, who in April 2009 entered the Creech Air Force base in Nevada, where many of America’s drones are remotely operated. They were arrested for trespassing, but it was their subsequent trial which drew the most attention. The judge considered the issues to be too important to make an immediate ruling, which is typically the case in arrests of nonviolent activists. He eventually returned four months later with a ruling of guilty, but, due to time already served, released the group with the words, “Go in peace.” 

The trial record which examines the morality of drone warfare and the legitimacy of nonviolent resistance has been turned into a script that could be a useful tool for an interactive classroom project.

To read a copy of the script, click here

For more information, see Stanford Law School’s 2012 report  Living Under Drones project and Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin’s recent book, Drone Warfare: killing By Remote Control (London: Verso, 2013). In Canada, a campaign to prevent the purchase of armed drones is being led by the Rideau Institute’s Ceasefire.ca project.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lifeboat

This newsletter ends with a poem by Kerry-Lee Powell. “The Lifeboat” speaks to a traumatic memory of war that haunted her father, a WWII veteran, who eventually committed suicide. In a soon to be published book of poetry, entitled Inheritance, she examines psychological trauma and the lasting effects of war and violence on those who suffer them directly and on those to whom they are passed on.  

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All night in his lifeboat my father sang

to keep the voices of the other men

who cried in the wreckage from reaching him,

 

he sang what he knew of the requiem,

of the hit parade and the bits of hymns,

he sang until he would never sing again,

 

scalding his raw throat with sea-water

until his ribs heaved, until the salt

wept from his eyes on dry land,

 

flecked at his lips in his squalling rages,

streaked the sheets in his night sweats

as night after night the re-assembled ship

 

scattered its parts on the shore of his bed,

and the lifeboat eased him out again

to drown each night among singing men.

 

Kerry-Lee Powell was born in Montreal and grew up in Antigua, Australia and the United Kingdom. Her work has appeared in The Spectator, Ambit and the Virago Press Writing Women series.  She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a National Magazine Award. In 2013, she won The Boston Review fiction contest and The Malahat Review’s Far Horizons prize for short fiction. Her debut collection of poetry is forthcoming from Biblioasis Press in 2014.

http://www.kerryleepowell.ca/

 

War Is Not a Video Game – Or Is It?

In this essay, Pat Romano examines the blurring of virtual war and real war for both civilians and soldiers, while some Dawson students look behind the façade of the games they play.

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“(Before) the weapon comes the image. We think others to death before we invent the battle-axe or ballistic missiles with which to actually kill them”

(Sam Keen; quoted in Stahl 2010: 5.)

During the 1991 Gulf War, US General Norman Schwarzkopf felt it was necessary to remind the American population that war was “not a video game”.  Since then, this comment has been  repeated by both defenders and critics of the  so-called “war on terror”.  For some, the concern is strictly limited to the possibility that democratic populations are no longer properly prepared for the sacrifices that are needed to win wars, while, for others, it points to the fear that we are at risk of losing our humanity.

The First Gulf War arguably represented a turning point in the western image of war.  War began to be covered in real-time, with 24-hour CNN coverage of high-tech weaponry being launched and aerial views of exploding bombs that was watched around the world.  It didn’t matter that so-called “smart bombs” or high-precision weaponry accounted for only 7% of the 88,5oo tons of US bombs dropped on Iraq (Kellner 1992: 163) or that a significant number of high precision bombs will necessarily miss their target or that many have such a powerful yield that their explosions will leave significant “collateral damage” — to use the popular euphemism that entered into our lexicon at the time; the notion of “clean war” had seeped into our consciousness. It was suggested by a number of critics that western populations had now become spectators and war a “spectacle” to be enjoyed (Kellner 1992; Stahl 2010).

The enormous expansion in video game technology since the last decade of the 20th century has arguably taken this trend further, leading Roger Stahl, author of Militainment, Inc.: War, Media, and Popular Culture, to argue that we have become consumers of war, and not necessarily mere spectators, but also increasingly its interactive participants. All-day media coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, provided too often by enthusiastic embedded reporters, gave us at home a feel of being “right in the action”, while video-games allowed us to conduct our own battles in the “war on terror”, or even, as the video game website KumaWar made possible, to re-play military events just weeks after they occurred in real-time.  Consuming war can be addictive as the opportunities for virtual war have provided citizens a way to cope with the fears and insecurities created by the post 9/11 discussions of dirty bombs and uncivilized opponents — both foreign and domestic (Huntemann 2010).  The empowering “fix” is temporary, but virtual war definitely gives the player a sense of having a real understanding of what is going on in the militarized real world, while victory remains always within reach.

The realism of the games is indeed stunning. War game scenarios are taken from or inspired by real wars. The player must “become familiar with sets of military knowledge (e.g., what weapons modifications are useful in certain conditions, or for certain tasks; military abbreviations and jargon) and modes of perception and action (e.g., particular ways of scanning an area and looking for enemies, or coordinating with teammates in clearing a room)” (Smicker 2010: 111).  The games produce “spectacles of military technological wizardly and gadgetry” (113), incorporating the perspective of the real soldier looking through infrared or night vision goggles, as well as the real feel of using the weaponry, whose destructive capacity is perfectly calibrated. But, the realism is, of course, deceptive as “the reality of corporeal violence and death, the ultimate defining characteristic of war, is foreclosed from the start” (112).  Your own death is a temporary setback, while the shattered bodies of those you kill, regardless of how graphically shown, disappear in a few seconds, leaving the battlefield pristine. Given that in today’s wars civilians make up the vast majority of casualties, it is particularly significant that they are almost completely absent from the playing fields of virtual war, which are typically devoid of “civilians, living cities or civilization” (King and Leonard 2010: 100).  Ironically, though, the very authenticity of some aspects of the war experience helps to hide the invisibility of others.

It is not, however, simply civilians far removed from the reality of war who come to know war only in this sanitized form;  soldiers in western militaries  are also experiencing war increasingly through the perspective of a video game as the military’s use of video games and virtual technologies expands.  For more and more soldiers, through recruitment, training and even deployment, much happens through a gaming lens. The US military’s relationship to the video game industry is one of mutual benefit and it has deepened considerably since 9-11, with their collaboration becoming increasingly seamless: video game simulations that are used in military training are resold to the consumer market;  games made for civilian society are used in combat training centers to teach soldiers strategic thinking and operational decision-making; video game technology that had its origin in military research is developed further by industry and then incorporated back into battlefield technologies (Huntemann and Payne 2010).  A key element is that both video game companies and the military target the same demographic, the young to mid-life adult (interestingly both are also committed to increasing their popularity with young women as well, and only time will tell whether this impacts on the representation or often complete absence of women in war games). This has led to what is perhaps the most significant collaborative effort, namely that of producing a war game with the main purpose of increasing recruitment for the US military and introducing potential recruits to the idea that their government’s violence is used solely to protect freedom and the “American way of life”.  Costing an estimated $16 million, but cost effective when compared to television advertising, the on-line game America’s Army, released in July 2002, has proven to be enormously successful with over 43 million downloads as of February 2009 (Smicker 111).  As a senior reporter for the Army Times put it, “What is happening right now is that a lot of people who are coming into the military service are thrilled by the idea of war” (quoted in Nichols 2010: 39)

While the statement “war is not a video game” appears a truism, with drone,  new visual and virtual reality technologies being developed for the twenty first century military, war itself is indeed beginning to resemble a video game – at least for those on one side.  Deployed soldiers can finish a day of combat duty and then relax by playing a war video game, as most soldiers are now doing, and increasingly it may be difficult to distinguish between where reality and play separated.  As military veteran and anthropologist Jose Vasquez writes, even something as common as night vision goggles enhance “soldiers’ ability to see through the darkness while looking past the human being right in front of them” (2009: 94).

There is thus a pressing need for us to find ways to separate the virtual from the real to ensure that the consequences of violence and war are not rendered invisible. Significantly, there is resistance coming from within the gaming community, such as the Dead-in-Iraq project where artist Joseph DeLappe periodically logs into the game America’s Army to type in the names of US soldiers killed in the war or a minority of games, like the popular Metal Gear Solid series, that question the utility of war, draw attention to its real consequences and explore the similarities between one’s enemies and allies. Even more provocative for westerners, but at the same time inevitable, are games which reverse the roles and challenge ideological truths; at least one, Under the Ash, made in the Arab world, a region where war’s reality is all too present, suggests that death is permanent and there is no “winning the game” (Stahl 137).

David Leonard, in “Unsettling the Military Entertainment Complex: Video Games and a Pedagogy of  Peace”, calls for a larger educational response, raising the disturbing prospect that video games are likely today more influential in shaping our students thinking about the world and such factors as race, class, and gender than are schools.

We need to start analyzing the efforts of blurring the lines between war and entertainment…. This is less a matter of simple military indoctrination than near immersion in a virtual world of war where armed conflict is not the last, but the first – and indeed the only – resort. The new military-entertainment complex’s games may help to produce great battlefield decision-makers. But they strike from debate the most crucial decisions young people can make in regard to the morality of a war – choosing whether or not to fight and for what cause” (N. Turse; quoted in Leonard 2004: 6)

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Taking up this challenge in my Humanities course, Violence and Nonviolence, I suggested to my students that they write an essay examining what they had typically not paid much attention to while playing a war-themed video game.  Here are some of their comments.

 Something often seen in games but never discussed… is the implications of the words “kill”, “die”, and “dead”. Often these words hold little weight when referring to the hordes of enemies these games throw at you; instead these emotions are generally reserved for the few comrades you get to (know) throughout the narrative and to some extent the primary antagonist. They often reduce the deaths of your enemies to nothing more that an obstacle to your success. The few games that do actually deal with this often portray the enemy (as) an entirely evil entity, giving no legitimate cause for their aggression.

Alexander Theofanopoulos; General Social Science

The point of playing Call of Duty is to kill as many people as you can so your team wins. The more people you kill, you get rewards. One reward…is to get to call in a drone to kill as many enemies (as possible)…. Call of Duty just focuses on the “fun” part of war. There is no real strategy or reason for why they are fighting this war. It’s basically just a kill or be killed scenario.

Brandon Weinmann; General Social Science

 My friends and I used to play these games almost every night as a pastime and it was fun. We would play for hours and hours, and when we saw each other the next day at school, all we would talk about is our kill streak or how we pulled off a 360 no-scope in the game, which is basically doing a full 360 without aiming your gun and killing the opponent with one shot – pretty impressive for a gamer.  However, the thought of killing another person never struck our minds….After you killed a certain amount of people, you were rewarded with “kill streaks”, which is basically the opportunity to use helicopters or other heavy weaponry….

Daniel Nowicka-Traczyk; General Social Science

According to the game’s story, violence is mandatory and it is totally accepted….The narrative only gives one choice to the player: killing all the main members of the (terrorist) group. …The player is offered around a hundred different small arms… (and) the main character can choose among more that twenty vehicles, including tanks, airplanes and helicopters. This variety of weapons and technologies offers the player a wide overall insight (into) today’s weapons. An interesting point concerning weapons is that the enemies have older and weaker weapon than (your) side. The enemy is depicted as (very barbaric people)….In Battlefield 3, the enemies are Russians or Iranians…. (and) Iranian soldiers are killing wounded American soldiers instead of arresting them, (as required by) the Geneva Convention.

Richard Babaiants; General Social Science

 First of all, from a narrative point of view, it is really well-written. You start off with a scene of a terrorist organization in the process of invading some nuclear base.  Already there you have a feeling of hate and authority to go and save the world….You are immersed in a wonderfully recreated jungle in South America…. As the missions follow, you are more and more revolted by what you see and feel disgusted by what the bad guys have done. But I have noticed that, if you don’t pay enough attention, the damage on both sides is equal. You and your allies kill as much, or even more…. The message in these games makes me feel as if war is the only solution. Not only that, but you get the sheer excitement of upgrading your weapons and making them so they suit you….You are encouraged to use these cool things…and like violence. They make killing fun. Otherwise the game wouldn’t sell.

David Lamothe; Environmental Science 

I will be focusing on the popular video game series Call of Duty. In this series, a player gets to control a character in the first person shooter style. (You) feel as if you are the character. …There isn’t any peace ever shown in the games. They simply put a player in the war zones where they must kill the enemy soldiers to end the war.  Another important thing that is never thought about is that…the games come out very often. The people who always buy these are getting used to the idea or concept of what war is according to the game. More and more wars become normal in their view. Even though the games are rated for ages 17 and up, kids as young as 12 can easily get a copy….

All of the characters are depicted as very tough guys, who don’t show sadness when allies die or aren’t mentally affected by torture. …The graphics of the game are advanced enough for you to see bodies get burned or lose limbs. There are even graphic scenes where (you) sneak up on enemies and kill them with a knife….

Call of Duty is very accurate on weapons technology. What it isn’t very accurate about are the casualties….There are very few parts where civilians are present. When they are there, most of them are running away to safety. What’s odd is that some parts of the war happen in major cities like New York. Even in the very crowded areas of New York. The missing thing is that there are no traces of civilians. None of them running away (and) no dead bodies….  

Enemies are always heard speaking another language so that we don’t feel any similarities. Their leaders are always evil and trying to take over the country or gain power. Some of them are seen as doing massacres of innocents in an airport. It’s always the foreign enemy who do the most horrible things in the game. Also, the games makes all the opposing soldiers look the same. That way people feel like they are only killing a bunch of unimportant clones.

Alvin Liwanag; General Social Science

 In the new versions of war video games, you feel that you are in a real mission, with an impressive weaponry arsenal, a mission to accomplish and a specific enemy. The most interesting thing is that I never looked at it as a way to recruit soldiers or legitimize government spending on armaments.

Elvis Torres Pereira; Civil Engineering Technology

 And a concluding thought for us all to consider:

 Despite all the technological advancements of this generation, society still shows reminiscences of the gladiator mentality: killing is an entertaining sport or spectacle. The media entertains the population by making war seem like a giant movie, weapons seem like strong and powerful toys and a battlefield seems extremely clean and distant. The lack of realization of these lies causes the population to forget the human suffering they are allowing.  Also, the focus of war as entertainment prevents the human interaction and empathy needed for peace to flourish….This film is very real and worst of all, it is rated G. Unfortunately, when the movie is over and the credits start rolling, there will be countless names of men, women and children who were sacrificed in the making.

Sabrina D’Aquila; Pure and Applied Science

 Works Cited

Huntemann, Nina. “Playing with Fear: Catharsis and Resistance in Military-Themed Video Games.” Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games. Eds. Nina B. Huntemann and Matthew Thomas Payne. New York: Routledge, 2010. 223-236.

Huntemann, Nina and Matthew Thomas Payne.  Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Kellner, Douglas. The Persian Gulf TV War. Boulder: Westview Press, 1992.

King, Richard C. and David J. Leonard. “Wargames as a New Frontier: Securing American Empire in Virtual Space.” Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games. Eds. Nina B. Huntemann and Matthew Thomas Payne. New York: Routledge, 2010. 91-105.

Leonard, David J. “Unsettling the Military Entertainment Complex: Video Games and a Pedagogy of Peace.” Studies in Media and Information Literacy Education 4.4 (2004). Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

Smicker, Josh. “Future Combat, Combating Futures: Temporalities of War Video Games and the Performance of Proleptic Histories.” Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games. Eds. Nina B. Huntemann and Matthew Thomas Payne. New York: Routledge, 2010. 106-121.

Stahl, Roger. Militainment, Inc.: War, Media and Popular Culture. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Vasquez, Jose N. “Seeing Green: Visual Technology, Virtual Reality, and the Experience of War.” An Anthropology of War: Views from the Frontline. Eds. Alisse Waterston. New York: Berghahn Books, 2009. 87-105.

Addressing War Games in the Classroom: Some Useful Classroom Resources

David Leonard’s call for a pedagogy of peace; a useful conversation starter; a teacher’s guide to help students think critically “about video games that play at war”; and some useful videos. 

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“Unsettling the Military Entertainment Complex: Video Games and a Pedagogy of Peace” 

In this provocative essay, David Leonard suggests that most teachers are reluctant to talk about video games and that “in general, there is a marked failure to recognize video games as sophisticated vehicles inhabiting and disseminating ideologies of hegemony” (2004: 2). He goes on to offer this disturbing picture of what happens when he uses class time to allow some students to play war-themed games, while making other students critically analyze what happens to their peers:

As students scream at their enemies and shout racially tinged epithets that serve to perpetuate ugly stereotypes – and as all things military are adored, glorified and revered – the classroom becomes a fishbowl where one can see how racial, gender and national identities are created and reinforced against a backdrop of Manichean violence and Social Darwinism(4).

To read Leonard’s full article in the on-line journal, Studies in Media and Information Literacy Education, click here.

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Militarism and Video Games: An Interview with Nina Huntemann, professor of communication and director of the film, Game Over: Gender, Race, and Violence in Video Games.

Games of all sorts – video games, board games, and games kids play in the backyard – have historically been about conflict and warfare. Whether you’re playing Chess, which is a simulated battlefield, or a game like Go, an ancient Chinese game that is also a simulated battlefield, or you’re playing a board game like Risk or Axis, you’re essentially at war and playing out military conflict….What is perhaps different about video games that deal with military conflict is they’re more realistic. Instead of imagining the battlefield in your mind or having an abstract battlefield like the Chess war, is that in video games the battlefield is drawn out for you in almost photographic, picture-perfect volume.

I do want to say one thing about these (video) games – they’re fun. In that, your adrenaline during all this is really pumped up, and you have to be sneaky and think through things, and strategy is involved, so there are a lot of visceral connections to these games….They’re popular because they’re fun to play, but also the themes draw us in, since they are themes that are in the headlines. We’re drawn in a way to something that is realistic.

 It’s not just about fantasy and escape, but another part of what we enjoy about entertainment and popular culture is how it reflects the world we live it. When we hear the word “terrorism” for example… we immediately respond with an immediate, Yes, we must neutralize it. Yes, they must be destroyed, etc. There is no moral or ethical questioning of the specifics of the historical context of the terrorist threat…. (All) of the questions that might come between hearing about a threat and then deciding to act have been flattened or eliminated….What I find really frightening is that in our playtime – in our leisure time, we’re engaging in fictional conflicts that are based on terrorist threat and never asking any questions…. It’s almost as if all the game needs to say is, There’s a terrorist threat, now go! If you take that and connect it to our culture, that is disconcerting…

The full interview has been made available by the Media Education Foundation and can be reproduced on a non-profit basis for educational purposes. Huntemann is an important critic of war games, recognizing their entertainment value, but also their risks. This short interview covers the key issues and represents an ideal text to use to introduce the topic in the classroom.

To read the entire interview or download it for your students, click here.

You will also find a very helpful teacher’s guide on war-themed video games from the Media Education Foundation by clicking here. 

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There are also a number of good films from the Media Education Foundation that can be used to critically examine video games and their messages: