Is it just me?

Gimme Shelter (documentary)
Image via Wikipedia

Or are we training our kids to blow up the world?

Recently I posted the Rolling Stones song, “Gimme Shelter” to my Facebook wall. I chose a Youtube video that explored the 1960s through a collage of images. The video smartly captured this complex decade: from the war in Vietnam to calls of peace from hippies; from groundbreaking music to the soup-can art of Andy Worhol; from the torture of innocents to rainbows of hope. The video included images of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, The Beatles, Malcolm X, and Fidel Castro. I believe someone made this collage video as a class project and set it to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

If you would like to view this interesting video before you read on, here is the link:

The song itself is haunting, with the high-pitched background vocals and Mick Jagger’s own distinctive voice, its dark edginess, and the repetition of the lyrics, “War, children, it’s just a shot away, a shot away, a shot away….Gimme, gimme shelter, or I’m going to fade away.” Yet the song ends on a hopeful note, “I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away, kiss away, kiss away….”

I don’t know if Jagger and Keith Richards purposely composed this song to express the turmoil of the 1960s, but it does. Whatever the composers’ intentions, it serves as an anti-war protest song, a song in which the vocalist is obviously asking for shelter and making a plea for love. It’s uncanny how the music and the words, the overall sound and moodiness of the song, bring back the 1960s half a century later.

But have you seen what the song is being used for today?

A network-run commercial recently aired for a new Xbox Game called, “Call of Duty: Black Ops.”

If you haven’t seen the commercial, take a look at this link before you read on:

Yes, everyone has a gun and most of them have machine guns: the attractive expressionless black woman in a business suit, the slightly overweight white girl with the smile on her face as she shoots her weapon, Jimmy Kimmel with the bazooka and yes, that is Kobe Bryant, also with a smile, as he shoots something up. At the end of the commercial, an  Arab-looking man walks in the streets holding two hand guns and shooting up the joint while the words, “There’s a soldier in all of us,” are imprinted over the video.

Am I the only one appalled by this commercial? Am I the only one who views the game and the commercial as a frighteningly unaware glorification of war? It’s Veteran’s Day. If I were a vet or a current soldier, I’d be pissed that risking my life for this country is being sold as an Xbox game where violence makes people smile.

Am I the only one who is shocked that the game is being marketed and sold to our youth as the greatest X-Box game ever?

I am horrified by the misuse of the song, “Gimme Shelter.” Does no one in the 21st century understand what that song really meant? How misapplied it is to a video in which everyone enjoys the killing but there is no blood, no innocent human carcass of the indigenous peoples, no body bags filled with 19-year old American boys being shipped home for burial? That was the 1960s. Not this.

It’s only a game, right? The technology of the Xbox is fabulous, I hear. The resolution  is “awesome,” no? No one really gets hurt, ain’t that the truth? Yeah, yeah, and freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I’m all for it. But is this where our culture is taking these freedoms?

I’ve been reading reviews of Call of Duty: Black Ops, online. So far, I can’t find anyone who is terribly disturbed that the biggest, hottest new Xbox 360 game is about smiling while you shoot people.

There was one guy on one website who commented: “it makes war seem like a game which it’s really not…” No, buddy, it’s really not. Ask any veteran. Or someone who has lost a loved one in a war. Not much to smile about, I would imagine.

Most comments sound more like this one that I’ve copied from a website:

“I’ve watched that commercial 20 times. What? I have a life! I do. Anyway, awesome, awesome, commercial. Love the hippie chick kicking in the door and the look of pleasure/rush of adrenaline on the face of her co-shooter.”

What??? Awesome commercial, this dude says, and he especially enjoys the “look of pleasure/rush of adrenaline” on the face of her “co-shooter.”

Is it any wonder there is “bullying” in our schools, murders in our streets, wars that never end? Or that we are so accustomed to violence that we think the commercial is “awesome, awesome,” instead of “horrific, horrific?” I don’t know whether such marketing promotes violence or whether the violence promotes the marketing. I just know something smells bad here.

I suppose I should give the commercial credit for being multicultural, multiracial, gender inclusive, etc. Well, nice. When we finally include everyone, we have them shooting bazookas and machine guns.

While technology marches us forward, human values leap barbarically backwards.

Is it just me, or are we training our kids to blow up the world? And to smile about it.

I don’t usually rant in my blog entries and I hope for all our sakes my next entry will be fun and funny. I usually want you to laugh with me or be moved with me. Today, on Veteran’s Day, I ask you to be afraid with me.

Gimme shelter.


  1. I too am scared shitless. I feel like all media is trying to turn us into sociopaths. I feel like it’s completely fucking wrong that a rated G movie can be about kicking the ass of the ‘bad’ guy, but if any nipples are involved, the friggin soccer mom’s alliance is going to file a lawsuit about the corruption of our youth. We can glorify violence, but we must clothe our sex in shame.

    Look at this! Every human being can be a killer! We can all snipe each other. We can leave bodies in the streets, blood soaking into dust. It’s okay. They probably deserved it.



  2. Cindy,
    Working with the guys at the prison, I know there is little smiling when it comes to having killed someone and the real ramifications that follow. Today on NPR I listened to a conversation about PTSD and veterans. Anyone who thinks it’s “fun” to go to war and kill should sit down with a vet and get the real story. One man expressed how he had felt like a mass murderer since serving in WWll so long ago. Over the centuries human beings have always glorified the warrior. That in itself is not a bad thing. Warriors are important archetypes in creative writing and in real life. But our current way of glorifying the warrior archetype via video games, movies, etc is too removed from the real thing. Warriors were celebrated because there had to be a way to ease the pain when they returned from battle with dead brothers in tow. Now we don’t even see our killed service men and women being returned home. We have no idea. Thanks for writing this piece.


  3. I find this commercial totally appalling, and I agree with everything you wrote.

    And sorry, Xbox, I don’t think there’s a soldier in me (not to say I wouldn’t defend the lives of my loved ones if I had do).

    The best soldier is not soldierly;
    The best fighter is not ferocious;
    The best conqueror does not take part in war; ….
    – Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching


  4. Hi Geenie,

    Thanks for reading the blog. It’s good to hear from you. I’ve missed you this week. I’ve never actually seen the game. I’m hoping the game itself is not so bad, perhaps it teaches kids about war rather than glorifiying it. I have no idea. What I was most frightened by was that commercial, shown on network TV, in which kids, as well as adults, glory in shooting up the joint, as if war is something to smile about. I was disgusted, too, that the commercial ignorantly co-opted the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” once an anthem that covered the tumult of the 1960s; now utilized for that appalling commercial. I hope my next blog entry to be lighter and make you and others laugh. Hope you are well.


  5. I know as kids, we used to play “army” and run around the backyard with fake guns pretending to kill each other, but we only played once in a while and there was no real shooting. The kids who play these shooter games play every day, all day. I don’t see the appeal of this game with the blowing off people’s heads and the blood, and the explosions. My nephew loves this crap. I tell him if he loves it so much, when he turns 18, he can enlist in the military and love it for real. He probably won’t. But he still loves these shooter games. I get nauseous whenever I try to play these games. I should just run away to a tropical island with Cindy Zelman.


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