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During our time at the beach, I mostly took a break from the news, although I did hear about the Iraqi woman bludgeoned to death in California, which had me worried about all my Iraqi friends worrying about it. It was nice, though, to take a few days off from photos of starving people (Mauritania et al) and tanks rolling through neighbourhoods and indiscriminately killing all (Syria). I do realize how blessed I am that I can opt out of these horrors; for those living in such a world, no such breaks are possible.
However, as I read the Hunger Games books (I’ve finished the second one, Catching Fire, and am now reading the 3rd, Mockingjay. Yaay, I’m on my computer again and can do links), pictures from the news kept appearing in my head, as I read of bombs destroying buildings and targeting hospitals, and the desperate poverty of the districts. I recently read an interview with author Susanne Collins, and she said the idea for the trilogy came to her as she switched TV channels and saw images of the Iraq war just after watching reality TV. As I read, I can’t help making comparisons to actual war, actual starvation, and actual privilege. It’s sobering. I read about the decadence of the Capitol, where at parties, people drink ipecac so that they can vomit and eat more. I couldn’t help but compare life in America, where people spend billions on their pets every year, to the family that lived opposite our house in Mauritania, in a tent, and took my kids’ torn and stained clothes and broken toys and were not just gracious, but thrilled.
When we moved, we gave them our faded cushions and broken water heater (they wanted it for a table) and basically doubled their possessions. They used to knock on our door and ask for a bucket of water–their allotment for the day.
The Hunger Games are also a reflection on reality TV, and how it can desensitize viewers. I have a memory nagging at me, from a comic strip. I think it was Bloom County, back in the 80s, and they’re watching TV and can’t figure out if it’s a movie or the news, and someone says, “Please tell me if I should be enjoying this!” At the movie the other night, the mostly-teen audience applauded one of the killings, and I could understand it–the girl was horrible, about to kill Katniss and mocking her too. But still. Elliot started to join in the applause and I stopped him.
One thing I loved about the books is they show the toll that participating in something like that would have on you, even if you won, if you survived and were “the victor.” I actually ended up loving the books, which I didn’t anticipate. But they leave you thinking about them, about implications, about how reality TV and violent movies affect how we view the world, about how we’re all connected as people, about violence in general and the different justifications used to allow it.
So Elliot wrote a short essay. He’s entered to win some sort of scholarship, and the first round is basically a popularity contest. It doesn’t make sense to me. If I was going to give $5000 to help some kid go to college, and I assigned them an essay topic of “The Most Important Lesson I’ve Learned in my Life,” I wouldn’t make winning dependent on getting other people to “like” your essay. But what do I know? I don’t give away $5000 scholarships either.
His essay isn’t really all that connected to the topic of this post, but it is, a bit, in a way. Anyway, it’s short, only one paragraph. There are a few typos, but give him a break. Please go vote for him. Just click this link.