The Hunger Games

Have you ever been to an opening night movie? I’ve been floating through life, a virgin to this experience until the Hunger Games came out a week ago.  I had some qualms; I love to sleep and am paranoid when afraid I won’t get enough rest. I didn’t want to be forever branded as the person who stayed up to see a lame movie, either. I do have my dignity. Luckily the Hunger Games held its own and Rotten Tomatoes hasn’t rejected it. I don’t have to be ashamed (here is a review).

A song:

For a few days after The Hunger Games came out, this song from the movie, Safe and Sound, played continually in my head. I find that surprising as I usually can’t stand music with even a slight country twang to it. Yet this is a lullaby of sorts. It has been branded in my head as the comforting cry of those who still survive.

I’m not sure how much you know about The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, but I have some good friends who write a book blog, (and its counterpart, Parental Book Reviews) who turned me on to the Hunger Games books a little while ago. In a nutshell, they are awesome and much better than the movie. Like everyone else who reads this series (boy and girl alike), I was transfixed. And while reading it, that deeper melancholy part of me sang Safe and Sound before I even heard the song.

The Hunger Games books are about the future of the United States, a country called Panem, controlled by the wealthy and carefree Capital. The surrounding districts live to product goods for the Capital. For example, in District 12 they produce coal and are very poor. This is where the teenage girl Katniss lives, taking care of her mom and sister by illegally hunting with the her handsome friend, Gale.

Her life is disrupted by the yearly Hunger Games, the Capital’s sadistic way to remind the districts that they are still indeed very much under the thumb of the Capital’s power. In essence, these games are a mixture between the blood sport of the Roman Coliseum and an experiment of the survival of the fittest. From a complicated system of lots, they choose two players, a boy and a girl, representing each of the 12 districts. They treat these kids like celebrities, training and pampering them, finally throwing them together in a controlled wilderness to see which one of 24 kids will survive. Then everyone in the country watches the TV screens, as the children of their districts must kill or be killed. These then, are the yearly Hunger Games.

Not to spoil it for you if you haven’t caught on yet, but the Hunger Games sets the stage for the next two books with a spark for revolution. Katniss, the Girl on Fire, and kind-hearted Peeta, her teammate from District 12, accidentally spin a web of political tension because they dare to breathe outside of the box to save those they love. How dare they maintain a tie to their own humanity!

In reality, their context is not much different from any other politically volatile time/place in history, where the powerful consider the weak disposable. Just like real countries in our world, Panem has a horrible authoritative government who let the unfortunate live their miserable lives in peace until their people dare to dream of better things. Better things like security, safety, the chance of improving your family’s livelihood, and freedom. In Panem, this includes the hope that your children will not be chosen to be slaughtered just to remind the rest of of your country that they should never rebel.

We, like Katniss…

Of course everyone wants to be like the main character in the book. If not, the author wouldn’t have done a good job if her readers didn’t relate. My personality is unlike Katniss’s in many ways, but I can’t help thinking that I could be her. If I lived in the same world, moment, experience she lived, I probably would have done exactly the same thing as her. No, I don’t have mad archery skills (I’ll have to work on that), but if I lived under a repressive government, I’m pretty sure that even though I would want to hide away and know that I should, I just wouldn’t be able to. As much as I don’t like to admit it to myself, I would be a revolutionary. And this is coming from the mouth of someone who hates, HATES, HATES war! Then often the revolutionaries, and the governments that come with them, are even worse than the one they outed! Even so, I would still probably fight against what I believe is evil.

You see, part of me knows that the Hunger Games is as real of a story as there are people who’ve lived on this earth. We all hope to protect those we love. We all know the world isn’t perfect, and many of us born and living in the rich world can be clueless to the pain of things not right in the rest of the world. I generally don’t think we are sadistically trying to oppress the poor and powerless, but just like the citizens of the Capital, it happens its because we are unaware of indifferent.

I’ve been told that if I had an autobiography, it would be called “What If.” I protest that name because it doesn’t have an ounce of romantic appeal. But I must confess that its true that I am always considering these hypothetical situations, which seem totally unlikely to everyone else but still very plausible to me. I guess I am acutely aware that we react when it becomes personal to us, and not so obscure.

If you saw someone you loved killed, how would you respond?

If you saw people mistreated and manipulated by those in power, how much could you take before you had to act?

If you lived under a government which controlled you to the degree your family was starving, what would you do?

What would you do if it was your child, or you, and you were thrown into the Hunger Games?

At some point, we know we would react in someway if these were our reality. These questions are an exercise of the depth of our character and they can increase our empathy for those who do live in these realities. These questions prepare our hearts to love.

Okay, as for being Katniss in the Hunger Games- not going to happen. But, the dystopian setting of the story doesn’t seem far fetched to me. We only would have had to be born in a different place.

The Real World

For example, last year was the year of the famous Arab Spring, where country after country revolted against more authoritative governments. Probably all of us heard about Egypt, whose coup was (relatively) peaceful. But, then there was Libya outing the infamous dictator, Gaddafi. Now that was bloody. And there were a few others, all representing over one hundred and twenty million people (To put that into perspective, that is 4x the amount of slaves in the world).

And currently, there is Syria.

In the case of Syria, there are gross war crimes and human rights abuses from both the government and revolutionaries. I won’t even begin to try to fill you in because I can barely follow it myself. One of the cities, Homs, has been under siege for months. Civilians, children used as shields for military movement. Rape. Gross, routine torture. It only took me a couple seconds to find a new picture posted of bodies of people killed today; read the twitter tag #Syria and you will be appalled.

So what should I say to their reality? Sucks to have be born there? Too bad the odds weren’t in their favor?

Then there are countries who weren’t affected by the Arab Spring. I won’t name all of them, but here are a few.

One is Myanmar (or Burma) in South East Asia. This place can be a pretty screwed up place to live, thanks to their military government. Thankfully, in the past couple years things seem to be getting better. The government have been taking some major steps (like being nicer to their people) trying to form relationships with the West. In fact, just this week, Aung San Suu Kyi, whom years before was elected but instead put under house arrest for over twenty years, was again elected. Hopefully she is allowed to do something this time! Maybe this notoriously bad country is changing for the good, because up to this point, the military has slowly been going to villages trying to exterminate those who aren’t the right ethnicity or religion. Myanmar has been renown for their oppression, even against the peaceful protest of monks. You can read more about who Myanmar has been in my post Global Day of Prayer for Burma and read a little bit about the possible changes in this news post.

I know I wrote about the Nuba in Sudan last week, an ethnic group the Sudanese government has decided to wipe out. This is the same government which has been killing people in Darfur for years. Read this post to learn/act: A Current Event: The Movie Star, the Nuba Mountains, and a Genocide.

For me though, the doozy is North Korea, a place I’ve been researching a lot this year. Of the governments most like Panem in the Hunger Games, it would be this place. Those in the Capital might not be as colorful as Panem’s Capital, because North Korea is the home of boring gray communists. They use extreme propaganda, cut their people off from the outside world, allow their people to die of starvation, and when they do allow foreign aid, it is very limited, used to show the benevolence of the Supreme Leader. He is the god of the North Koreans; worshiped and revered- the result of generations of deceitful propaganda. North Korea controls the “politically unreliable” by sending them and then their extended families to prison (slave) camps, which usually is also a death sentence. Among many other human rights violations, their use of torture, killing, infanticide, forced abortion, and religious persecution is pretty nasty.

These places, these people are real. They are why I am melancholy while I am still enjoying the Hunger Games. These people are why the song Safe and Sound is still reverberating in me. We get stories like the Hunger Games, because it could just as easily be us. We could be the one looking for a way out to protected those we love. We don’t have to go that deep to know that oppression is wrong and some governments are bad. In a heart beat we know that injustices like human rights abuses and forcing kids to kill each other or be killed (like with Child soldiers) are evil.  And we all know what it feels like to be safe and secure, and how primal it is for us to desire that for those whom we love.

But even though we know that, we forget that real people in our real world actually experience these things. In a way, the Hunger Games isn’t so fiction.

Ideas for action:

A couple of weeks ago, Syria wasn’t allowing aid into their country, at least not fully. I believe that since then, this has changed, but I am finding it difficult to know what organization we can give to in a way that will truly love Syrians.

In Myanmar, you can sponsor a child through World Vision only by special request. One of our sponsor children is here, who has been a pleasure to get to know. There are many small groups on the Thailand/Burma border, who working with Karen refugees. This is one couple who is starting a Christian missions base supporting the Burmese.

This post will direct you on how to help the Nuba in Sudan:  A Current Event: The Movie Star, the Nuba Mountains, and a Genocide.

If you want to help a group doing amazingly brave things, support Love North Korean Children. Being European (not American!) they have been able to start legitimate businesses, bakeries, in North Korea, where they provide jobs, feed and care for very malnourished children, and provide spiritual hope.

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”               -Hebrews 13:3 NLT

 Hunger Games Trailer:

Lyrics: Safe & Sound

Taylor Swift (feat. The Civil Wars)

I remember tears streaming down your face
When I said, “I’ll never let you go”
When all those shadows almost killed your light
I remember you said, “Don’t leave me here alone”
But all that’s dead and gone and passed tonight

Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You’ll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I’ll be safe and sound

Don’t you dare look out your window darling
Everything’s on fire
The war outside our door keeps raging on
Hold onto this lullaby
Even when the music’s gone

Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You’ll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I’ll be safe and sound