A nation hungers for reason
By Michael H. O’Donnell
Sometimes I feel as if America is stuck a world where teenagers – the
best and brightest among them – would be a good choice to lead this
nation. Take this quote from Katniss Everdeen: “Destroying things is much
easier than making them.”
Katniss is a fictional character. Her very being was created by author
Suzanne Collins who wrote “The Hunger Games” trilogy. Collins’ first book
was made into a Hollywood movie and the female protagonist who uttered
those words was portrayed by a 21-year-old actress, Jennifer Lawrence,
who won an Academy Award for her performance.
In the film Lawrence is playing the part of a 16-year-old girl. And the
premise of the first novel written by Collins is one boy and one girl,
ages 12 to 18, from each of 12 different areas of the “civilized world”
are selected by a lottery to compete in a battle to the death that is
broadcast for everyone to see on TV.
These young Spartans must endure hardships and challenges that would
break any adult. The battles of life and death take place in a nation
called Pamen – North America after the destruction of civilization by an
unknown catastrophic event. The nation is comprised of the wealthy
Capitol and 12 surrounding poorer districts – including one called
Appalachia where coal is the major economic resource.
To many this would just seem to be great theater. And you might think the
political right in the nation would have viewed this film as just another
slice of political propaganda brought to America by those commie pinkos
in the California film industry.
That would be what Second Amendment fanatics would call a “misfire.”
When the books first came out, the divisive political sphere of America
was uncertain about the message.
Even “The Blaze” website, which is Glenn Beck’s creation,was confused. It
ran reader responses to “The Hunger Games” trilogy that included comments
such as: “I think the ending was a warning to not become that which you
despised and fought against to begin with.”
It seems that the enemy was the tyranny of idealism.
The comments in “The Blaze” revealed a understanding of the message in
Collins’ book when it distilled the essence of the film to a “discontent
toward a government that oppressively controls rations, forces sacrifice
of 12- to 18-year-olds and limits communication and free speech.”
Good fictional writing often captures the essence of reality.
It is fitting at this point to talk about the author. Collins was born
during the darkest days of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Her father
was a U.S. Air Force officer who served in Vietnam and being a “military
brat” she was constantly on the move. In 1991 Collins began writing for
children’s television shows including those for “Nickelodeon.”
When Collins began writing “The Hunger Games” trilogy she said it was
inspired by her father’s descriptions of Vietnam and the poverty,
starvation and realities of war.
Collins was less interested in the ideologies that start conflicts and
more interested in the human suffering that followed.
She channeled the stories her father shared with her as a youngster into
a fictional world where young people were forced to suffer because of the
indifference and ideology of adults.
In the first book of the trilogy, Collins explains the landscape. The
rules for survival are simple. The 24 players selected for the
competition must kill each other and survive in the wilderness until only
one wins. The games are broadcast via television to the public to both
entertain and intimidate the population. Everdeen is a great hunter and
archer who survives despite an incredibly human response that leads her
to help an opponent, a male named Peeta.
Later Peeta tells Everdeen, “Kind people have a way of working their way
inside me and rooting there.”
By working together the two teens survive the gauntlet that an oppressive
society has arranged. Even though the rules of the game have dictated a
confrontation where only one could finish alive, they defy the notion of
selfishness and find common ground.
This fictional story of overcoming strange rules of confrontation might
be a lesson to the Congress of the United States as it finds itself
locked in a battle where idealism has dictated that only one can win.
Granted “The Hunger Games” books were written by the daughter of a war veteran who had seen too
much death and destruction spawned by political idealism, but there has
to be a message here.
By the way, author Suzanne Collins resides in the village of Sandy Hook,
Conn., with her husband and two children. We know this place
all too well. It’s where 20 children and six adults were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School by
a madman armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle last December. Collins
wrote her trilogy four years before it happened.
The irony is obvious. Any lesson about crazy behavior seems more elusive.
Michael H. O’Donnell is the assistant managing editor of the Idaho State