Pens And Swords

Image: Syria/UNHCR/B. Diab

The following essay is by Will Butler, a 14-year old student who believes his generation’s insights gleaned from gaming, reading science fiction and digital immersion can meaningfully inform the discussion of the future of armed and social conflict. Will comes from a military family and is a student-athlete who loves strategy games of all kinds.


My generation will be the one dealing with the majority of the consequences from the wars brewing now, so we have a special need to be involved in discussions and decisions about our future, helping to confront the challenging conflicts that will evolve from current issues like ISIS. This terrorist group is growing and I am sure they will be a continuous threat as my generation grows up—they are getting more powerful by the day and the weapons, tactics, and strategies that we form now will help in the future (and perhaps also in the present). My friends and our children will be dealing with the outcomes from whatever ideas are developed today.

Our generation has also been one of the most exposed generations to terrible things like violence and war. From video games and bloody movies to the YouTube posts showing torture by the ISIS terrorist group, we cannot avoid the violence forever, so we need to help solve it. As technology advances, so do weapons and warfare, so we must stay ahead of the enemy, with fresh ideas and battle strategies. I believe video games can help with that. When my friends and I play “Call of Duty” (and other battle games), we develop different tactics and strategies as we try to accomplish our objectives in all of the different game modes. Especially in the times that we fail, without really noticing or trying, we invent and create new attack methods or even uses for weapons and tell each other what we wish the game had. These types of things can be used in real life too.

Exposed to all this technology, though, we really understand the value of human connection. So another way my generation could help is by establishing a pen pal program with children in war zones. I know it may sound a little silly, as this was a thing that my parents’ generation did with other children across the country decades ago, but a pen pal program would include kids across the world. In places like Iraq and Iran, education like we have is hard to get, and our enemies can easily flood the minds of the children with lies. As a matter of fact, right now, the ISIS terrorist group is brainwashing many children in Iraq and Syria into thinking that America is bad, and that it is OK to kill people without giving it a second thought. This is where pen pals can help… if enough well-educated American kids can get messages to villages the bad guys have not reached yet, then the children in other countries might have a better chance to stand their ground and grow up knowing what is right and wrong. This way, the children will know the truth about America being good, and the difference between right and wrong.

Some people might think that with the Internet this pen pal program would be outdated, but old-fashioned letters still have much value for something like this. Also, messages on the Internet can be accessed by hackers or just not be able to reach the receiver. My school or any school could provide this opportunity and the students would write while the adults would ensure the delivery of their letters. These things might take time, money, and effort, but in the long run, the effects will show and everything will be worth it.

There is no reason to ignore my generation until we are of the age we can join or be called to serve in the military. Some may think that this knowledge of war would poison the minds of American kids, but in truth, we are already exposed to many of these things, which is still not half as bad as what some kids in other countries are being exposed to. Terrorists are beheading people and setting them on fire right in front of kids and even letting them do these horrible things, so including Americans my age in this discussion is not harming us, but really preparing us for the future and even enabling us to help others our age around the world.

Yes, adults have more experience and wisdom, but in deciding our future on topics like this, the youth should definitely be heard — in the end, we have the a unique ability to help change the outcome of battles for the better or maybe avoid war altogether.