By Barb Arland-Fye
Frank Sinatra’s singing caught my attention. I looked up at the television set and watched, dumbstruck, as “soldiers” dressed in street clothes happily shot their way from one exotic location to the next.
The famous crooner’s upbeat song from long ago played incongruously throughout the advertisement for the Call of Duty video game. The impression I took away from the TV ad on a late Saturday afternoon was that war is fun and the only people who get killed are your enemies.
How could anyone appear so happy-go-lucky about war? Especially when news accounts and images of war in countries such as Syria and Iraq convey the haunting realities of human suffering? Nearly 1,000 Iraqis died in October because of sectarian and political violence, matching the number who died in September, the Associated Press reported. Almost 2,000 lives lost in two months; what about the injured and the grieving loved ones left behind?
In Syria, more than 115,000 people have died since fighting began in March 2011, The Jerusalem Post reported in mid-October. Readers of this newspaper have been kept abreast of war’s toll on the Syrians by Catholic News Service. Nearly one-third of Syria’s population has been displaced by the country’s civil war, CNS stated in a story we published Oct. 3.
Adweek.com is effusive in its praise of the ad for the latest installment of Call of Action, apparently one of the most popular video games on the market. The first time I saw this ad was around the time an angry, 23-year-old man shot and killed a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worker and wounded four others Nov. 1 at the Los Angeles International Airport.
As I write this article, the gunman’s only motive was a desire to take out his anger on the TSA. But I have to wonder whether violent video games and crime shows, available 24-7, contributed to the way in which he chose to vent his anger.
The Consortium on Media Literacy reported in its October 2013 issue of Connections that studies show the effectiveness of a CML violence prevention curriculum in changing students’ attitudes regarding violent media. The studies, conducted in 2007 and 2008 in seven school districts in Southern California, found that students in the intervention group were more likely to view media violence as contributors to real-life aggression and other effects.
“Students in the control group reported increased behaviors, including pushing, shoving and threats of physical violence. Students in the intervention group were more likely to limit their media consumption and showed no increases in aggressive behavior,” CML reported.
At the end of each Mass we are instructed by the priest or deacon to go in peace to love and serve the Lord. That message compels me to speak up about a video game that’s winning accolades for excitement and creativity, but is the antithesis of our Christian calling.
In the interest of promoting something much more positive, I’d like to ask readers to support Andy Allen, an elementary school teacher, children’s author, and alumnus of Regina Catholic Education Center, Iowa City, in his anti-bullying efforts.
Allen, who lives and teaches in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wrote a book a few years ago titled “Stormin’ Norman — The Soggy Doggy,” which has been a hit with kids in a number of Iowa schools. Now he hopes to publish a second book about Stormin’ Norman centered on bullying that reinforces lessons of patience, acceptance, friends and self-confidence.
“I believe if early childhood teachers and parents had a useful book to discuss friendship, how to deal with a bully, and why being a buddy is better than being a bully, then perhaps we will have fewer bullying issues as students get older,” Allen said.
If you’d like to help him get the book published, please visit his website: www.andyandnorm.com.
War is not fun, and as Christians our call of duty is to do everything we can to foster peace.