Author Archive

These opinion pieces were written by students of political science and peace studies at Butler University in the Fall of 2013.  We look forward to your comments.



By Steven Tyler

I was never one to follow teen craze novels or movies. I was very selective about my popular culture obsessions. The Harry Potter series and the later-famed Hunger Games Trilogy have, in my lifetime, immensely surpassed the fad-ness of less intelligible obsessions, such as Silly Putty and Pokémon.

Clearly, I never fell for the book/movie power-couple of our generation. Yet, the power of the literature and the silver screen have gotten people to do pretty crazy things– like dress up in ridiculous garb as tributes and wizards to a public movie theater, or spend an entire afternoon brewing butterbeer for friends. All of a sudden, everyone is “volunteering as tribute.”

Although it may seem like I am attempting to demean the wildly popular novels-turned-movies, I really have no right to. In respect to the coming release of Catching Fire in theaters later this month, the Hunger Games trilogy has snowballed into a spectacle of success. Foreign rights to The Hunger Games have been sold to 38 territories to date[1]. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have become heroes to Lativians and Albanians alike; Panem seems to be an internationally recognized (fictional) entity endeared by readers around the world.

After neglecting the Hunger Games craze for over a year since it dominated the box office, I unintentionally gave in. I viewed the movie, and in short, I was appalled.

Militainment, or militaristic, violent themes as entertainment, is highly prevalent in popular culture today. Violence has entered in every form of entertainment, books carry the themes, movies are bloodier than ever, and videogames have evolved from Pac-man to Grand Theft Auto V. Colloquially referred to as “GTA 5” has gained street cred through its success—8,576,630 units sold on opening weekend[2]. This game is brutally violent—glorifying murder, extortion, prostitution and torture. Although we can all recognize that these are all horrible themes, it remains a best-seller. The ubiquity of violence, proved by the mass willingness to spend upwards of $60 per unit, leads the conscious observer to think that Militainment has desensitized society. So desensitized, in fact, that we gift the Hunger Games, which carries similar themes of violence, oppression, and child soldering to our innocent little cousins on Christmas.

The Hunger Games, as a novel and blockbuster production, is an example of militainment aimed at the young adult demographic. Yet, as a young adult, I believe I was an outlier in my reaction to the Games. The violence deeply bothered me—the systematic oppression against districts, the sadistic selection of the tributes, and moreover the hand to hand fights to the death churned my stomach. Watching kids get mauled by axes seemed farfetched. I found it interesting that we classify the Capitol as sadistic, when we (in the real world) choose to view very realistic depictions of child killings. Sure, the Hunger Games of Panem aren’t real, yet we, like the society of the Capitol, view violence as a worthwhile consumption of time and resources. The reality of the depicted deaths shouldn’t diminish the fact that we find it entertaining.


What does this tell us about real violence, real war, and real peace? Have we become a culture of violence-charged individuals? Does this appetite for violence translate to the real world? Politically speaking, US foreign policy has, since the end of World War II, been a violent “proponent of peace.” Invasions of countries across the world (Afghanistan and Iraq) to promote “democracy” seem to be (disappointingly) accepted in the public eye. Drones currently fly over these countries looking for “terrorists”, yet they terrorize innocent people living under their crosshairs. Talk about a scary similarity to the Capitol of Panem—drones are the real life equivalent to the constantly supervising capitol. These pilotless planes may make our consciences easy because our soldiers aren’t literally flying them, but they still drop bombs. Is this a peaceful way of ensuring democracy? It seems like we think it is. When was the last time we heard about a community in Pakistan being devastated by unmanned aircraft?


Should we ban every Hunger Games books on the shelves? Should we stop the money-saturated movie industry for making its film renditions? Absolutely not, but I think there are some things we can learn about from the trilogy. We can learn about the ugliness of oppression, we can understand that war is prevalent in our world, and we can realize that violence is detrimental to the construction of peace. If we don’t recognize that violence is a problem, we blind ourselves to the inhumane practices that our own government is implementing.

By A. Neuman

Navy Yard, New Town, Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech—it is as easy to rattle off mass shootings as it is to name the players on a favorite sports team. While mass shootings certainly gain national attention, estimates nearly 31,000 people have died from guns since the Newtown shooting 11 months ago.

But when will America say that enough is enough? Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was the target of gun violence two years ago, yet Congress can’t manage to compromise on gun control. In April of 2013, the Toomey-Manchin bill, that would require background checks for all gun sales, failed to gain enough support to break a filibuster. This was a bill that 90 percent of the American population supported according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Where is the outrage over this clear legislative failure? After the initial outrage, it has taken a backseat to Syria, the government shutdown, the NSA leak, and the IRS scandal. And while our concern for gun violence has waned, we are exposed to more gun violence than ever before. A study in the upcoming December issue of Pediatrics found that the level of gun violence in PG-13 movies has risen, surpassing the violence in rated-R movies from the 1980’s.

In a culture where four of the top ten movies this month are rated PG-13 or R for violence and Call of Duty, Battlefield 4, and Assassin’s Creed are the most popular video games on Amazon, it appears that the need to be entertained is of greater interest than real political change.

Yet, even our entertainment makes strong critiques of American’s need to be entertained through violence. The dystopian society of Panem, as described in the widely popular and bestselling series The Hunger Games, offers one such strong critique.

Main character and national sweetheart, Katniss Everdeen, is amazed by the self-absorbed materialistic Capitol citizens, wondering, “What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?” To the Capitol citizens, the Hunger Games are a party filled with extravagance and excess; to the districts, it is a time of sorrow, watching their children die, one brutal murder at a time.
But are Americans any different when CNN chief Jeff Zucker publically celebrates the networks highest rating in a decade just two days after its infamous misreport of an arrest in the Boston Marathon bombing? I say no.

What have the Capitol citizens given up in order to have material goods and constant entertainment? As Katniss learns, they have “given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power.” By creating a culture centered on entertainment through violence, the Capitol could subjugate the districts as they deemed necessary and maintain its little empire. Violence was a cycle that became very difficult to break. It took cutting off the Capitol from their material goods and luxury foods before mass rebellion ensued.

In the same perverse logic, the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of America’s strongest lobbies and anti-gun control advocates, blames American culture for mass shootings. Responding to calls for gun control, the NRA attempted to shift the blame for mass shootings away from a gun control to cultural influences, like video games and entertainment.

A clever move, until the NRA released a shooting game less than a month after blaming the video game industry and the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. Like in Panem, the cycle of violence in American culture has become impossible to break. The American media jumps at the chance to break mass shooting news, even if it means reporting unconfirmed and simply false information as they did in both the Boston bombing and the Navy Yard shooting.

At what point will the American people wake up and realize the violent cycle perpetuated by the NRA and the media? America should know that it has a problem when national headlines include, “Navy Yard shooting unlikely to jump-start the debate over tougher gun control laws” and “Foreigners say they are no longer surprised at U.S. gun violence.”

We have grown apathetic to gun violence, as if it is just another part of life. At an extreme, like the Capitol, we will come to anticipate it with excitement. But will Americans be able to stop it before then? Today, the NRA argues the Sandy Hook shooting was because “there weren’t enough good guys with guns.” We must break the cycle of violence, perpetuated by politics and mass culture, before that can happen.

Articles consulted:

A Neuman

By Liv Euler

Floating around thirty-eight countries are roughly fifty million Hunger Games books, twenty-three and a half million in the United States alone. Over four thousand screens projected The Hunger Games, making nearly seven hundred million dollars in revenue worldwide. The recently disclosed Catching Fire has soared past two hundred and fifty million dollars in revenue after just the first eight days of it’s release. The series has captivated a global audience in an unprecedented fashion, even surpassing sales of the applauded Harry Potter series.

So, what does this tell us? Millions and millions of people, readers, moviegoers, and bystanders, are consuming themes of inequality, suffering, love, corruption, and revolution and digesting them into their outlook of the contemporary political scene. The series, whether purposefully or not, is acting as a teaching tool for overcoming adverse political situations. For two primary reasons the Hunger Games series runs counterproductive to the efforts of peacemakers internationally: First, the Capitol falls through violent revolution brought forth by Katniss and comrades. Secondly, despite hints of cognitive dissonance violent revolution is the only tactic utilized in the overthrow. To readers and viewers this suggests that violent inequalities and political oppression are only defeated through the use of fierce counter-violence. As the acclaimed Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” In a world pervaded by violent conflicts such as those in Syria, Egypt, Israel and Palestine, and the like, this traditional message is not peacemakers wish to be portrayed.

Katniss, Peeta, and Gale the three prominent “good guys” of the series first capture the hearts of readers and viewers through an intricate love triangle. Each character respected for a different reason: Katniss, a brave, intelligent, mature young woman; Peeta, a caring, selfless, giving young man; finally, Gale as a supportive, understanding friend. As the series progresses so does the transition of these characters from seemingly nonviolent peace and justice seekers to fierce revolutionary warriors; same ends, but different means.

It is rather disappointing that Collins did not choose a different path for these characters, although she did try to save face by portraying Peeta as a sacrificial, sustaining peacekeeper while in the hands of the Capitol. All readers and viewers gathered from the series, Mockingjay primarily, is that the “good guys” had to become hardened, angry killers avenging the injustices of their past. It is obvious that the Capitol did indeed oppress, completely take advantage of, exploit, and downright ignore the basic human rights of outsider district members; I am by no means suggesting Katniss and company should have just continued living noiselessly. Justice through some form or another was crucial to Panem’s future as a nation. However, was it necessary to enforce justice through the same murderous, violent methods used by the Capitol to begin with?

In a world rife with violent conflict it is of utmost importance for peacemakers to change the traditional narrative of combatting violence with violence. While it is unfair to say that Collins believes in war and violence and this is the sole reason for ending the series the way that she chose, it is fair to say that for readers who read superficially war and violence are apparently necessary and just means for revolution. Certainly the work can be interpreted in more than one way, but what if Collins had chosen another route? What potential did the series have for shifting, or at least intriguing, the mindset of those it reached? In my opinion, great potential.

Had Collins depicted a more nonbelligerent alternative peacemakers would be able to greater utilize a series that is reaching millions and millions of young people who have the potential to be life changers. Instead, the traditional narrative remains intact and violence prevails. As peacemakers move their way through the trenches of redefining justice the heroic Katniss Everdeen and her noble assassination of corrupted leadership acts as a speed bump experienced by millions worldwide. As a student of political science and peace and conflict studies, a concerned global citizen, a constant believer in the inherent good, and a Hunger Games fan I anxiously await a fourth book of clarification and redemption.


Works Cited:

By Kris Kaliher

Syria and The Hunger Games, more specifically the new movie Catching Fire, are hot topics as of late, one a news story and one a pop culture phenomenon. From looking at the title you may also be wondering what political agency has to do with these two, or even what political agency is in the first place. While these themes may seem unrelated, they have much more in common than one would think. More importantly, this young adult sensation, this worn torn nation and this political science term are shaping the world in a scarily rapid way.

Before we talk about the Hunger Games (let’s be honest it is the most enjoyable of the three) it is important to define political agency. Merriam Webster tells us that agency is “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power.” So if we add the ‘political’ part on we can infer that it is the ability to politically wield power, have influence and shape identity. The idea of political agency is the key component behind the motivations of the characters in the Hunger Games. In the new movie Catching Fire Katniss and Peeta against the oppressive Capitol in the arena once more. Everyone’s favorite tributes are fighting for more than their lives though; they are fighting for their freedom. Their ability to move up, succeed, and practice politics is prevented by President Snow and the Capitol. Their potential for political and social movement is at a stand still; their political agency is stalled.

So what do our tributes do? They fight back. Although the end of the series ends in a violent climax, the foundation of the revolution is based on solidarity and non-violent defiance. By reading these books young adults (and adults for that matter) are actively learning about politics in an engaging and fun matter. Readers of the series get to see the ways and means of political agency in Katniss’ world, and possibly start to wonder what makes her world different.

Now, I am not advocating for the installation of a violent revolutionary totalitarian regime, but rather for an in-depth look at how political agency plays out in today’s world. The Hunger Games is a fantastic model for a growing grassroots political movement that is decentralized and started by local participants. Unfortunately the most prevalent “grass roots” political movements in America today are more funded by corporate entities and super PACs than the average voter. Today, people learn that politics is partisanship, shutdown governments and pork barreling of bills. Modern politics is a machine, not a movement. Simply put, the political agency, engagement and change we see in the Hunger Games is stagnant in our world today. Or is it?

Largely written off in the news after President Obama decided to not intervene militarily, Syria is one of only many Middle Eastern nations suffering from violence, but from this violence comes a message from the people. These citizens are not marching against such simple measures such as tax hikes and unemployment, but rather successfully protesting against the use of chemical weapons and the subsequent destruction of them by the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. They seek not to change the process of politics but change the dynamic of power itself. This international exhibit of political agency is right up Suzanne Collin’s alley, showcasing the great influence of politics and those who practice it. Despite all the violence and struggle, the true nature of politics is not being practiced here at home but instead on the other side of the world and in a trilogy of young adult novels and subsequent movies. The suggestion here is not to start a revolution or political movement, but rather to highlight what politics is and what political agency can be. It’s the idea of actively working together for something better, something more, and something right.



War Children

Posted: December 3, 2013 in The Hunger Games Op Eds

By Emily Hogg

While people enjoy the new Hunger Games film, released on November 22, which features children fighting each other to the death, they should be reminded that for children around the world, war is merely a factor in their everyday lives.

Military groups involving children, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, may seem incomprehensible, much the way that the murder of children seemed morally incomprehensible to Katniss Everdeen during the end of Mockingjay when she states that “something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences” when thinking about President Coin’s parachutes that killed her sister (MJ 377). But instead of condemning all direct violence with a broad brush, one can look at the structural violence that creates movements like those that use children and attempt to work to not only correct the present but protect the future.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a militant movement that originated in Uganda in 1987 that has been accused of various human rights violations, such as murder, abduction, sex slavery, and the military use of children, and has been active as recently as March 2012. The LRA’s ideology is a unique mix of both African mysticism and Christian fundamentalism, wishing to create a state based on both the Ten Commandments and local mystic traditions. These actions have drawn condemnation from such worldwide figures as the African Union, the United Nations, and the United States and Canadian Governments. How does such an organization come into being?

It’s easy to simply look at those involved as being depraved, as Katniss is willing to label the human race, including the rebels who killed her sister, but this doesn’t help those actors wishing to improve the situation. If we chalk up the LRA’s actions to simply being evil, it becomes impossible to stop or prevent them and other organizations like them.

Instead, it’s more productive and easier to understand these actions in a context of long-term structural violence present in Uganda.

Structural violence occurs when some institution or social structure prevents certain individuals from achieving their basic needs. It can include institutional elitism, sexism, and racism and can often cause direct violence.

From the moment the British Empire established the Ugandan Protectorate in 1894, structural violence has dominated Ugandan politics. The British encouraged the various ethnic groups and tribes in Uganda to view each other as enemies and designated one group of people, the Baganda, as their “preferred” ethnic group. By focusing the Ugandans’ hostility on one another, the British were then able to run the country uncontested, much like the Capitol did to the districts during the Hunger Games.

Even after Uganda won its independence from Britain in 1962, structural violence was still present. Not only did the ethnic groups continue to war to against one another, but the economic disparity between the poor Eastern and Northern Uganda and the richer Western and Central Uganda created resentment, like the resentment present among the rebels toward the Capitol.

It is out of this resentment and conflict that groups like the LRA emerged with highly religious and violent rhetoric and promise to solve the problems that Ugandans have faced. In order to prevent the formation of more of these violent groups in the world, one must actively work to destruct institutional oppression.

Katniss believed there was something inherently wrong with the human race after looking at the people who were involved in her sister’s murder, saying that perhaps Peeta was right about letting humanity kill itself off and letting another species take over (MJ 377), but perhaps she should have looked at the structural violence leading up to this conflict. Just as the British government pit the tribes within Uganda against one another, the Capitol pit districts against one another. The Capitol also established a system that deprived the districts of what they needed to survive and drove the rebels to seek independence at whatever cost. While blame does and should rest on those who commit these unconscionable acts of murder, like the LRA’s use of child soldiers and the rebels sacrificing children, it should also rest on the structural violence that shaped and created these individuals, like the British oppression of Uganda and the Capitol’s establishment of the Hunger Games.


Sources: International Criminal Court, Warrant of Arrest unsealed against five LRA Commanders. 14 Oct. 2005. Martin, Gus. Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. SAGE Publications, 2006. Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs on the War in Northern Uganda, 1997.

By Jordan Lee

The U. S. military has been actively deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly ten years. But, how many Americans do you think wake up in the morning and feel as if we are a nation at war? Often we forget that our own soldiers are still engaged in these conflicts. We are nearly out of Iraq, and Afghanistan has become the new theater. The media typically does not report on the military, and it becomes a forgotten subject. Why weren’t our soldiers talked about for the years and years of time they had spent and are spending fighting in these far away countries? I feel our distance and amnesia about war stems from the lack of media coverage on conflict, our literal distance from the battlefields, and the lack of change in most of our communities as a result of war. It is really frightening how desensitized and unconcerned with the results of these conflicts Americans can be because the majority of us do not suffer in them or because we buy into these myths of heroic and celebrated war.

I feel the American spirit is driven forward in our minds when we hear of acts of heroism or stories of war. In the Hunger Games series, this same sort of warm applause for soldiers exist. The protagonist, Katniss, is given a massive welcoming before the first Hunger Games. The event is essentially a bloodbath of children from each district in the country, but it is heavily televised and seen as a massive national spectacle. The following is a description of the parade of tributes that will fight in the games from the first book of Collins’ series. “The twelve chariots fill the loop of the City Circle. On the buildings that surround the Circle, every window is packed with the most prestigious citizens of the Capitol. Our horses pull our chariot right up to President Snow’s mansion, and we come to a halt. The music ends with a flourish.” Much like the American population, the citizens of the Capitol, who are the richest district in the entire series, are incredibly captivated by these soldiers and celebrate them publically. Shortly after, they are shipped into the arena to fight to the death. But, the public is so obsessed with this image and pride and strength, they forget that war is inherently dangerous.

The U. S. mirrors the Capitol because both groups of people are so desensitized by conflict. When we see incidents of our military being wounded, it’s so easy for us not to think about the impacts of war on these soldiers. When media coverage closes on these stories, we are briefly sympathetic before it is replaced with some other form of news or entertainment. A glimpse into the second portion of the trilogy shows exactly how Panem is similar. “After they’ve exhausted the topic of the Quarter Quell, my prep team launches into a whole lot of stuff about their incomprehensibly silly lives. Who said what about someone I’ve never heard of and what sort of shoes they just bought and a long story from Octavia about what a mistake it was to have everyone wear feathers to her birthday party.” The Quarter Quell from Collin’s series is the seventy-fifth Hunger Games where unique rules are put in place. Naturally, it is still a massacre. The image team from the Capitol that dresses Katniss can easily move from a disturbing topic to their own trivial lives. This isn’t so different from Americans discussing Iraq or Afghanistan and then talking about TV shows or sports.

It seems our amnesia about conflicts comes from the distance from the struggles. Also, our resources and daily lives are largely unaffected by these conflicts. The Capitol in the series does not begin to worry until a revolution threatens their resources. Before this point, the rebellion was something that was not heavily covered. Furthermore, their attitude towards the annual slaughter is similar to a reality show, not a mandated death match between Panem’s children. Also, Americans are not forced to go to war much like the Capitol has volunteers to fight in the games.

Americans need to begin to see war for what it really is. We can’t just turn off our TV’s, watch something else, or forget about what goes on out there. We should not see war when our media chooses to show it. Instead, we should constantly remind ourselves of the sacrifice our own citizens choose to make for us. We should try our hardest to prevent these sacrifices to be made, or at the very least remember that this is happening more than the handful of times it shows up through media outlets. It is not to say all Americans do not see the reality of war, but that more Americans need to be actively involved in understanding what war really means.

Work Cited

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Toronto: Scholastic, 2008. Print.

Collins, Suzanne. Catching Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2013. Print.

By Rachel Skelton

The acceptance of an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Health Act has had some Ohioans up in arms. Republican governor of Ohio, John R. Kasich, has approved the expansion of Medicaid under Obama care. The expansion will benefit almost 275,000 people in Ohio including the mentally ill and single mothers. Kasich is one of ten Republican governors who approved the passage of the Affordable Health Act and expansion of Medicaid in the United States currently (see Appendix). With many Republican governors favoring this act, the question is, did Kasich break away from his party’s usual stance or is he using this act for his own gain. Perhaps the new Hunger Games movie and it’s portrayal of similar characters will help to solve this mystery.

Kasich claims that he is led by his Christian beliefs, and makes decisions that benefit all of his constituents. He references his time spent with Ralph Nadar closing loopholes and supporting Clinton’s weapons ban in the nineties as signs of his bipartisanship. However, he also spent time closely working with Newt Gingrich in the nineties as well. In his time spent as governor, Kasich references his neutrality when he supported the Democratic mayor of Cleveland to increase taxes in support of a better schooling system. But at the same time he cut funding to schools and local governments across Ohio. Kasich reiterates Republicans usual stance the poor as being lazy. However, his track record infers that he is attempting to win back the group. One he has cast aside since taking office for an upcoming election in 2016 (LOGIURATO 2013).

Kasich’s actions are not as egregious, but are similar to the villain in the popular series Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. In the series, a tyrannical President Snow, makes meager attempts to better his people through false pretences. He first helps to create the Hunger Games, an event where two children are chosen from every district to battle to the death. Snow would argue the games provide hope to the people he oppresses by elevating one person every year from a state of poverty to the wealth held by the people in District 1.

Snow’s tesserae allows children to obtain a meager amount of sustenance as a measure to survive. Publicly, this could be seen as a social work project benefiting the poor and individuals who are unable to work. However, they must put their name in the reaping for every year they collect tesserae. This puts the poor at a disproportionate advantage of being included in the Hunger Games and dying a horrible death simply because they are poor.

Snow is willing to do whatever he needs to be in charge. He poisons his enemies to retain power. He even permanent damages himself in order to avoid suspicion. Kasich exemplifies a similar characteristic of ruthlessness to Snows. Kasich offered hope to the poor when he provided more funding to the mentally ill during his time spent as governor. But, Kasich wanted this expansion so badly he stacked the board who voted on it. Two hours before the vote, Kasich switched two individuals who were going to vote against his expansion. He replaced those two individuals with people who would vote to support his expansion (Gabriel 2013). Snow removed countless enemies when he was in power and even poisoned himself to avoid suspicion. Snow would do whatever to stay in power. The bottom line for Kasich was that he would break whatever ethical principles were in place to achieve his end game. Instead of allowing a democratic process to occur and have a credible election, this is a clear example of Kasich wielding his power as governor in order to obtain his end goal very similar to the intent of President Snow.

Kasich should be mindful of his actions. He already has been mindful in regards to his actions prior to the election, but it could end very badly for him if voters begin to connect the dots. Looking through his track record it is clear that Kasich has often offended voters and made decisions that disproportionally benefits his constituents. For Snow the outcome was not a healthy one, and Kasich has already faced the backlash of his constituents in a referendum, which reverted one of his decisions a few years ago. Voters will hopefully be able to differentiate sincere efforts from a well-calculated move. A play that includes supporting a program of which many other Republican governors are taking advantage.

Appendix The previous presidential election voter turnout .

The states who have accepted Medicaid expansion. Works Cited Electoral Vote Predictor. Nov 1, 2012. Gabriel, Trip. Ohio Governor Defies G.O.P. With Defense of Social Safety Net. Oct 28, 2013. LOGIURATO, BRETT. GOP GOVERNOR: ‘There Seems To Be A War On The Poor’ With Republicans In Washington Read more: Oct 29, 2013. Merling, Devon. Ohio GOP governor says ‘there seems to be a war on the poor’. Oct 30, 2013. The Advisory Board Company.

By Austin Del Priore

With the recent release of the movie version of Suzanne Collin’s “Catching Fire” of The Hunger Games trilogy, ironically enough hunger seems to be the least talked about issue.

The books and now films have captured a variety of audiences and age groups with the entrancing love drama, political infighting and bloody battle scenes. Hunger seems to take backstage to the more flashy and violent themes.

A major aspect of the plot development of the series focuses on the lack of food for impoverished communities and how food is actually used as a tool of political leverage and manipulation for the controlling capitol. The district from which the main character, Katniss, hails is strikingly similar to the modern region of Appalachia – with poverty and food insecurity being major concerns. Just as hunger is overlooked in the series, American society seems to be taking a similar path of ignorance.

Despite 1 in 6 American’s facing hunger, why is it a largely overlooked?

According to a recent Gallup poll, when asked what the most important problem facing the United States today, only 2 percent of respondents answered “poverty/hunger/homelessness,” while “dissatisfaction with government” garnered 26 percent support and healthcare polled at 19 percent.

In 2012, 49 million Americans lived in “food insecure households” according to a report. Meanwhile, the Republican held US Congress recently passed legislation to make “draconian” cuts to the food stamp program, according to US Congressman James McGovern. He also called it, “one of the most heartless bills I have ever seen.”

While there are viable arguments to be made of the importance of other issues – poverty and hunger are uniquely impactful to the quality of life of Americans. What does it say as a country when the ability of our fellow citizens to feed themselves is not seen as an “important” issue?

So, how can the dynamic be changed? Perhaps The Hunger Games offer an example of what narrative not to pursue. Just as the likes of Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga (and their antics) dominate contemporary news cycles, the appeal of The Hunger Games seems more rooted in the flashy Hollywood of overdone themes: love, death and violence.

The Hunger Games does make issue of social class and food access, though it is not what you will see being advertised in the “Catching Fire” commercials. Recognizing that there are starving people in the United States is hardly glamorous, just as it does not sell books or movies.

As a society we must move past what may be deemed showy politically and take note of a critical issue.

While there are certainly flaws to the current food stamp program, a recent Census Bureau report demonstrated that the program “had kept about four million people above the poverty level and had prevented millions more from sinking further into poverty.”

Hunger and poverty is not glamorous or glitzy, but it is pressing and important. With The Hunger Games serving as another reminder of how hunger affects the lives of many, I suggest that food security organizations around the country take this opportunity to expand their message, their reach, their fundraising and food collecting. What better time to attempt to entrance the country with an issue affecting so many, than when the issue is staring back at society with a popular-culture film.

Hunger is not a game; it is a very real issue and should be thought of as one by the American public.

By: Austin Del Priore





Volatility of Youth

Posted: December 2, 2013 in The Hunger Games Op Eds

By Zak Hembree

The Hunger Games is a commentary on general desensitization due to Hollywood and its variance of truth and glamorization of violence. Collins’ uses the analogy of the Hunger Games as a televised event to comment on an aspect of society that is plaguing it, similarly to George Orwell’s infamous novel, Animal Farm. Slipping into the periphery of the story, the Hunger Games is televised. Filmmakers want the audience to forget that the Hunger Games is a televised event, creating an immediate culture identical to Panem’s. The event is living tribute used as entertainment for the citizens and the capital, “You root for your favorites, you cry when they get killed. It’s sick!”* Romanticizing the event to make it a competition, the tributes are not supposed to be fighting for their lives but rather for glory, money and honor to remind themselves of the tribulations of the past. Romanticizing reality and violence is harmful to society, reproductions of reality skew perceptions of realism.

The ultimate desensitization of Americans; children don’t view death and infringement of personal rights and autonomy as an atrocity but rather a source of entertainment. Suzanne Collins worked with film makers to create a message similar to that of the book. Emphasizing the overwhelming sensation of revolution, a term that has been contorted by American phrasing to have a negative connotation. Collins presents a dystopian society conveys a feeling of helplessness and desperation. In this desperation the only possibility for hope is in revolution. While the fear of violence is imminent and pressing the possibility of stability through change is too compelling to ignore. Katniss does not kill to win, she kills out of necessity, (a common theme amongst noble characters in literature) forming alliances to protect those that she loves. The Hunger Games trilogy romanticizes hardship and at its core it is a movie about love and nobility. Collins knows Roman-style gladiator fighting for entertainment set in post-modernity is barbaric enough to display the convoluted perception of reality. Collins illustrates the inevitable intertwining of perception and reality.

The event, The Hunger Games is a glorified reality television. A guilty pleasure of many Americans. In a way, reality television has had a share in eliminating hope from the lexicon of impressionable futures. Leaving susceptible audience members striving for an ideal of material wealth almost unachievable. Eliminating or taming empathy from many in the viewing audience could have catastrophic implications resulting in a culture founded in cynicism and hatred. Ponoma, California sits 15 minutes east of Los Angeles in an area plagued by the same type of gang-related violence that afflicts most of Southern California. Youth Pastor Daniel Diaz of New Beginnings Community Church was one of 200 attending an anti-violence rally held by community leaders. Diaz was tragically murdered after dropping off several teens who he had brought to the event with him (Pamer). The volatility of at-risk youth is stoked by the instability of institutions intended to steady their lives and potential. An incogruency in ideology has sparked action; much darker and more disastrous than the acceptable civil disobedience which was instrumental in the establishment of the United States. The inability to distinguish between the acceptable actions of civil disobedience and pure cultural violence is a direct result of the brutality and atrocity of popular culture. This hatred is cultural violence, and while it may not be direct or structural it is limiting the potential of our society. Our lack of empathy on a personal level is alarming. As a society, we have learned to speak and act pejoratively rather than complimentary. This inability to distinguish between reality and personal cynicism leads to irrational and abrupt decision making which could ultimately lead to primal methods of maintaining stability, through coercion and intimidation.

Our perception becomes our reality. For 73 years prior to Katniss and Peeta’s stand in the Hunger Games people have participated in this inhuman competition without any effort to change it. Children have been brought into the world knowing nothing other than watching poor people fight to the death for the unlikely outcome of becoming one of societies elites. Katniss and her cohorts fight Panem’s cultural ideal of elitism. The Hunger Games strikes fear into Panem, eliminating hope and twisting reality for the benefit of the controlling class. The movie is shaky, dynamic and intense, however Collins and film makers abstain from showing brutal deaths. Refusing to show the casual brutality forces an audience to imagine it, making the death of innocent teens intimate.

Essentially, many humans all want the same things, everybody loves to laugh and have fun but with our twisted perceptions of reality, Hollywood has made our bizarre and erratic consciousness our realities. Katniss lives in Panem, an absolute dystopia, not to dissimilar from the future. Our lives have been redefined, rather than creating our own narratives culture has obtusely created an alternative narrative for which reality is perceived through. And this sensationalism has limited our quality of life by diluting tragedy and the implications of reality and violence.

** Pamer, Melissa. “Advertisement.” KTLA 5. N.p., 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 02 Dec. 2013. *The Hunger Games. Dir. Gary Ross. Perf. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. Lion’s Gate, 2012.

By Jordan Matters

The Hunger Games is a best-selling franchise that has spawned a box office hit with the second and third movies in the series destined to follow the same path as the first. At its core it is about a society where the masses are used and abused for the gain of a few after you strip away the fat of the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. The book is set in a dystopian society named Panem where the Capitol lives a lavish lifestyle and uses the thirteen surrounding districts to their advantage by stripping the districts of their resources and offer the citizens of these districts marginal wages at best that are not even enough to feed themselves and their family. It’s a pretty grim tale for a book that was originally written for teenagers and one that shouldn’t exist in the real world. This is not the case unfortunately as country of Panem is actually a metaphor for the global economic system and the dominant form of geo-economic thinking: neoliberalism. In neoliberalism, a large and well-off corporation or country forces itself into the economic system of an underdeveloped region or country offering jobs and a way to move the region or country into the twenty-first century by creating a modern economic system in exchange for resources. However, the tradeoff is never fair and actually puts the underdeveloped country in a worse spot than before. An example of this would be a corporation building a factory in a “third-world” country on the land that the locals use for sustenance farming and as a means for providing for their families. Since the land that was used for farming was gone, the locals are forced to enter into the workforce. Conveniently, a factory just opened up and has open positions for the community, but since this factory provides the only jobs in town and the corporation does not have to pay anything more than pennies a day along with terrible working conditions where the employee isn’t guaranteed to go home at the end of the day. You may be sitting there watching the Hunger Games and viewing the dystopia that is Panem and be saying to yourself that this is horrible and needs to stop. However, you and I are the capitol. I’m writing this piece on a computer and listening to music off of my phone that were both made in China. I’m wearing clothes that are made in Malaysia. And after I finish I’m going to get into my Mustang, that was assembled in Michigan but made from parts that were built all over the world, and use gasoline that was refined from petroleum stolen from a faraway land and their people.
During this time I know that these I bought these products because they were at an attractive price point for a consumer. But that the price point is only possible because a whole slew of people collectively make in a day what I make in an hour at my job.
The most prominent story to have surfaced recently takes place in China with a company called FoxConn, the company responsible for manufacture of everything Apple from iPhones to MacBooks. The wages and conditions that FoxConn uses allow Apple to be the most profitable company in the world.
Two FoxConn employees decided that falling from the top of the building and ending their lives was a better option than going to work and making your iPhone. FoxConn was forced to install anti-suicide nets after the suicides and a protest by employees that threatened suicides wihtout a change in working conditions and pay.
In the Capitol, also known as the United States, while we may know about these facts we carry on with our lives. We will continue to use our iPhones and wear clothes made in a faraway land at the expense of someone’s dignity. We simply do not care. And to me, that is extremely reminiscent of the Hunger Games. The people of the Capitol lived extremely lavish lifestyles at the expense of those that lived in the districts.
The people in the Capitol paid for this in the form of being on the receiving end of a revolution. They lost their way of life because of the way they lived. How do we stop this from happening in the real world? How can we turn the United States into something other than Panem?
The answer is simple. Stop enabling it to happen. Purchase items that are fair trade made or if you want to be a patriot buy items that were actually MADE in the United States, not just assembled from parts made in another world. Encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to do the same because you alone are not going to hurt Apple’s stock price by not buying an iPhone. Although this scenario is entirely unlikely because we are so immune to these causes since they are in foreign lands. Unfortunately, a massive demonstration or a truly horrific event related to the working conditions in these factories would perhaps be the only catalyst for change.
The companies that partake in the Hunger Games, I mean neoliberalism, do so because it is profitable to them. If it is no longer profitable because more and more people refuse to purchase products made at the expense of others, then they will cease doing it. But that takes work on our end. While the Hunger Games is an excellent book, it needs to be exactly that: a story in a book. Not some metaphor for the real world.

By B. Stephan

Suzanne Collins has stated that one of her inspirations for the Hunger Games trilogy came from flipping between the coverage of the Iraq War and reality television channels. It caused her to wonder if people were becoming desensitized to violence and less able to distinguish fact from fiction. Throughout the Hunger Games trilogy, time and time again we see a focus on the corruptions of the political system. Some read the Hunger Games as a love story or a story of revolution between the districts and the capitol and their games, but it is far more complex than that.

The themes of Mockingjay for example, are very similar to the situations and themes that the United States faced during the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. The War on Terror was called in retaliation of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and was viewed by some as a “just war.” According to, ‘just war’ is defined as “a military action that is justified as being permissible for legal or moral reasons.” In the series, Gale was working on how to transform his hunting traps into traps that could be used on humans. Humans are symbolized as animals when Gale starts setting traps for humans rather than game animals. Setting traps for the human race ultimately led to more collateral damage and caused more devastation to all life forms. When Gale’s ethics were questioned, he stated that they were “following the same rule book that President Snow used when he hijacked Peeta.” In Gale’s mind, the ends justify the means, so to speak, even against innocent people.

The idea of the ends justifying the means is when methods that are seen as immoral or unjust are somehow okay as long as something good is accomplished as a result. This is a very common tool used to support war and identify it as being a just war. This is very similar to the prisoners who were being tortured and abused by the U.S. military in an Iraqi prison with the sole justification of what “those people did to us on 9/11.” The real question for both sides comes down to whether or not the prisoners were all responsible for the terrorist attacks and deserved a severe punishment for the wrong acts of a few? It sounds to me that torturing prisoners for what they did to us on 9/11 as an act of justice is just the opposite. None of those in the prison had a direct correlation to flying the planes in to the Twin Towers in New York City that day. Torturing them is not a way to get even; it only means that even more terrible and horrifying acts against the human race have now occurred. Gale is unable to see any of those living in the Capitol as anything other than the enemy and that idea reflects back on our American society for how some, even more so after 9/11, makes it hard for people to look at certain racial or religious groups as individuals. All too often, the “others” or those who are “different” are portrayed as dangerous and terrorists. That is one of the most cruel fallacies when it comes to war of any kind. Those who are viewed as “others” and “different” are still in fact human beings and deserve the same level of respect that all humans should be entitled to.

There is a lot of political discourse involved such as the economic status of each of the districts, the reaping, the games, and the power of the Capitol. The Hunger Games series brings light to a multitude of political situations involving economic inequality and violence, but primarily focuses on the corruptness of power seeking individuals. Many Americans are so used to seeing violence and war on the news that we as a nation are no longer skeptical about war or even pay attention to the real atrocities that are happening. What is real and what is not, just as what is right and what is wrong is now no longer something that many of us can clearly define. Creating an ends to justify the means and saying a war is a “just war” does not negate the fact that war is war and people will be negatively affected. The Hunger Games series has a way of raising difficult questions that make us think and becomes more interesting when we realize just how closely related to that world of fiction we actually are.

Submitted by: B. Stephan


By Margaret Seitz

The environment is typically placed on the backburner in political discussions of late in the United States. Rarely will you see a politician headline their views regarding the environment. This troubles me and should worry you too. Recently, Suzanne Collins, the author of the popular Hunger Games series, wrote of a world in which life is bleak for most, resources are scarce for the masses, and living is simply a daily struggle for the populace. Living is made more difficult every year by the fact that each community must give up two children to fight to the death in these “Hunger Games”, which mirror the Gladiator fights of Ancient Rome. The Games stand as a reminder to the citizens not to rebel against those in control of the country. The country that Suzanne Collins wrote about, “…rose up out of the ashes of a place called North America,” and as a result of an environmental collapse, “…the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, brought the brutal war for what little sustenance remained” (Hunger Games, 18.) Collin’s fictional country of Panem could be the future of our country and our future generations.

Currently, with our lack of conversation about the environment and agreement on how to maintain it we are doing nothing. At the moment in this country, there is no in depth comprehensive policy or legislation in place to combat environmental destruction. As a result zero progress is being made towards environmental stability. Our inability to act is causing more and more irreversible damage to our planet. However, some in politics say climate change is not occurring and some say it is, but believe that what is happening is normal and no cause for worry. Current scientific research proves otherwise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change” (IPCC Organization webpage). The IPCC has concluded that atmospheric carbon dioxide greatly increased to astonishingly high levels since the Industrial Revolution (Parenti, 5). This has caused a heating up of the world, which has disrupted water currents and weather patterns around the world and in turn disrupted plant and animal life (Parenti, 5). This may sound insignificant, but if we continue emitting high levels of carbon dioxide and as a result effects in the weather and plant and animal life occur, as they have and will continue to, then irreversible damage will be done to our planet that will make human life on it not sustainable. Our planet the Earth, “can survive without humans, but humans cannot survive without [it]” (Corcoran, xi).

Interestingly, Collins writes,” Something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences. You can spin it any way you like” (Mockingay, 375). Currently, we are those creatures. People of this country, politicians and regular citizens alike, are those creatures Collins is talking about. If we do not come together and make some sort of change in which we alter the way we are currently treating the environment our future generations will be sacrificed all because we could not settle our differences and take action about the environment now. Our future generations could be forced to live in a bleak world that may very well be like that of the Hunger Games, one in which peace is experienced by few as the many struggle to survive in hard and sometimes violent times. Knowing this citizens and politicians must come together now to discuss our environment and make strides to change how we interact with it in an attempt to protect it because if not the future of mankind, our future, will make for a dark tale to read.

Works Citied in order of mention:

Collins, Suzanne. (2008). The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press.

IPCC Organization page

Parenti, Christian. (2011). Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. New York: Nation Books.

Corcoran, Peter & Wohlpart, A. James. (2008). A Voice for Earth: American Writers Respond to the Earth Charter. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Collins, Suzanne. (2010). Mockingjay. New York: Scholastic Press.

By Funkmaster Bunting

With the latest Hunger Games film smashing box office records this Thanksgiving weekend, questions concerning political agency and government have once again found a place in our popular culture. A year removed from the most expensive American presidential election, these questions seem to be more important than ever. For all the contentious issues tackled by the competing campaigns in 2012, there was an almost five-point drop in voter turnout, going from 62.3% in 2008 to 57.5%. With this year already seeing a government shutdown and a change in filibuster rules, it is not difficult to see the effects.

Discussing issues of political apathy, Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy takes place in the country of Panem, a dystopia in which the government of the Capitol oppresses citizens in other districts. The citizens of the Capitol, despite knowing about the treatment of those in the district, choose not to get involved in exchange for the comfort which they receive from their government. The Hunger Games trilogy is the perfect example of a government run by a powerful minority to the detriment of the majority. When the President of the United States is elected by only 29.3% of eligible voters and close to half of all voters choose not to become involved, it can similarly create some problems.

The biggest effect of a lower turnout is that each side claims a mandate. While Democrats were touting the win as an affirmation of Obama’s progressive agenda, Republicans were pointing out that Obama was the first president to be reelected with a lower electoral vote than his first election in almost two centuries . Additionally, when combining all of the votes for a party across the nation for the House of Representatives, Democrats received a million more than Republicans. However, the Republicans kept control of the House.

So, which side gets the leverage? If current history is any indication, neither side does. This allows for officials such as Sen. Ted Cruz and other members backed by the Tea Party to have legitimate grounds for grinding our government to a halt in order to exact specific policy goals. While the deficit shutdown is the latest example to come to fruition, topics such as immigration reform have already brought announcements of senators stating they will filibuster to satisfy their constituents. At the end of the day, can they really be blamed? They were elected with a certain vision by the populace, while the government as a whole was not.

So we are left with a dysfunctional government, one in which individual members are given a goal by their constituents but the body as a whole has no mandate. Additionally, our president, elected by a little over a quarter of all voters, does not have enough of a surge from the election to allow him to force Congress to act.

One of the biggest worries that political scientists have is that vocal minorities electing their representatives will begin to have an outsized sway on the direction of our country. If more and more voters begin to give up their political agency and exercise their right not to vote, the direction of the country will be decided by an ever-shrinking group, echoing parts of the government found in The Hunger Games. In that series, the Capitol represents an absolute minority of the Panem population, but it is nonetheless able to influence the lives of all those in the districts, individuals who have lost their political voice.

While those who chose not to vote in 2012 did so not because the ability was lost, but instead because of a conscious choice, the effects can remain the same. The select few will lead due to their strength derived from a vocal minority, affecting the lives of the silent majority. With several likely candidates for 2016 already laying the groundwork for their runs, it is important that they recognize the need for churning out a large amount of voters in general during this cycle, not just their base. If not, we could see a continuation of this downward turnout trajectory, and leave the victor in charge of a very different kind of America.


By Nathan Pagryzinski

November 28th marks the eve of many Americans’ favorite holiday; a day when people enthusiastically spend money they don’t have, on things they don’t need, for people they don’t like. Black Friday, the shining example of capitalism in action, is for most people simply a way to buy cheap holiday gifts. However, in 2008, Black Friday claimed its first life when a 34 year old Walmart employee was trampled to death in Valley Stream, New York, and this violence has no intention of slowing down. With Black Friday quickly approaching, and the second movie in the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, coming out on the 22nd of November, we can make some shocking comparisons between the hyper violent world of Panem and our own corporate run country. Although Black Friday has not (yet) resulted in any mass killings, society may not be far off from the atrocities experienced in the Hunger Games. In the Hunger Games trilogy, children are forced to slaughter one another every year in a gladiatorial arena, which is then broadcast across the capital and 12 districts of the country. In the capital city, and a few other districts, the games are an event akin to the Olympics. People tune in all day, every day to watch their favorite child tributes fight for their lives; they cheer at the victories of their favorite tributes and weep at their death. Yet even more disturbing is the money behind the Hunger Games. Merchandise is sold yearly, every child hoping to be gifted the latest fake sword as seen in that years games. Also, most of the citizens of the various districts pool money to buy small, in-game gifts for their favorite tributes, as well as place bets on whom they think will win. So how does the commercialized killing of children relate to Black Friday? Comparing the Hunger Games to Black Friday, it is initially hard to see how buying gifts for family and friends can be put on the same level as forcing children to kill one another on national television. But the disturbing similarity comes at a more basic level in that both the Hunger Games and Black Friday shopping create an utter disregard for human life and instead turn people into objects. It is common place for local and national news to report on injuries and fights that take place during Black Friday shopping, so common that we as a society have begun to expect injuries from the “crazy” holiday shoppers. We make a mental divide, separating the lunatics from us normal folk; we convince ourselves that we would never be capable of such madness. But this is the problem! We find no outrage in the violence and death linked to buying holiday gifts. In this day and age, 50 dollars off the newest tablet holds the same value as the 34 year old Walmart employee standing in front of you.  The Hunger Games began with violence and slowly commercialized killing until there was no distinction. The United States is taking a different route to the same ends. Beginning with a capitalist dominated society, violence is slowly being incorporated into our post-Thanksgiving shopping trip. Is the value of spending time with loved ones during the holiday season really being manipulated by corporate greed? The initial defensive answer for most people is “No, of course not. Not for me, but I can see how some people are sucked in.” If this if your initial response, some self-examination might be a good thing.  As Black Friday approaches, I challenge you all to not buy into a holiday season that is run entirely by profit driven America. Instead, spend time with the people that you care about. Sleep in late, eat too much food, visit with family and friends, and resist that 25 dollar saving that is eroding the humanity of the holidays.

By Hannah Weigle

Massive lines of Americans eagerly awaited the doors to open for the midnight premiere of “Catching Fire,” the second movie in the Hunger Games trilogy, based on the books written by Suzanne Collins. Many of those enthusiasts sat in their comfortable, yet sticky, movie seats, shoveling popcorn into their mouths and guzzling their 44-ounce, refillable soft drinks, yet their hearts broke for those in the poorer districts, like District 12, and they loathed the Capitol’s gluttony. How can we be so oblivious to this contradiction?

What many viewers will not realize is that the futuristic, post-apocalyptic country’s name, Panem, is an allusion to the Latin phrase, “panem et circenses,” or “bread and circuses.” This term originated in Rome, circa A.D. 100, when it was Roman practice to provide free wheat and circus games to citizens as a form of appeasement, so they would adhere to authority without asking questions (Bread).

Romans did not have time to think about political issues if they were distractedly watching gladiator games, gorging themselves with food, then purging the contents of their stomachs in the vomitoriums provided for them at the stadiums, so they could eat even more (Bread). For the Romans, the fun didn’t end until the collapse of the empire!

Like the Romans, Panem’s government uses the Hunger Games as a way to coerce the people into assenting to their oppression. While for the exploited, the Hunger Games are supposed to portray the chaos that would ensue without the structure the Capitol imposes on them, for those in the Capitol, the Hunger Games are a form of entertainment to keep life interesting.

Additionally, although many of the poorer districts in Panem do not have enough food to survive, those in the Capitol have such an abundance of food, they also use vomitoriums to manage the overwhelming issue of having too much delicious food to consume: “In return for full bellies and entertainment, [the] people [in the Capitol gave] up their political responsibilities and therefore their power” (Collins 223).

While the Roman and Panem practices may sound ridiculous, parallels can be drawn to U.S. society today.

Sometimes we get wrapped up in our own individual lives and petty dramas. If we have what we need to get by, sometimes it is easy to look the other way, ignoring the issues in the United States and the rest of the world, and our responsibility to elect a government that breaks down the structural violence in our society.

In 2012, only 126 million people voted in the presidential election, with 93 million eligible voters failing to vote (Election Results 2012). This might sound like a decent turnout, until one realizes that 750 million votes (almost six times as many votes) were cast in season 10 of “American Idol” alone (American Idol). Additionally, nearly as many Americans watched the 2012 Super Bowl, as voted in the election between Obama and Romney (Baker).

To make matters worse, while the obesity rate in the United States has risen to 27.2% (Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index 2013), according to, in 2010, 17.2 million households (or one in seven) were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States.

Let me further dramatize this food inequity in this country. While people in our own country our starving, 40% of Americans’ food goes uneaten and is thrown away. There is clearly more than enough food in this country to feed everyone, so it doesn’t make sense that people are still hungry. Even though this is also the case in the Hunger Games, children in poorer districts put their names in the reaping an additional time each year, in exchange for a tessera, or a coin worth a year’s supply of grain and oil for one person. In other words, they must decide whether to starve now, or possibly be selected and die as tributes in the future.

Although Americans aren’t exactly taking out tesserae, this example demonstrates the extreme and sometimes risky lengths that people will go to in order to put food on their families’ tables. Parents shouldn’t have to stress about how to feed their children each day, and impoverished children shouldn’t have to go to bed hungry many nights, sometimes only eating one meal a day at school.

I’m not arguing that Americans should miss out on “Catching Fire” but I hope that they can learn something from it – they should make a conscious effort to break down some of the “bread and circuses” practices in the United States.

Take a few minutes each day to inform yourself about important issues. Find out how U.S. policy shapes issues affecting those in your own community, as well as the rest of the country and world. Don’t let the entertainment distract you from what is really going on in life and don’t forget your political responsibility and therefore your power in this country.

Works Cited “American Idol.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Nov.  2013. Baker, Liana B. “Super Bowl Viewer Ratings down from a Year Ago.” Reuters.  Thomson Reuters, 04 Feb. 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 2013. “Bread and Circuses.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 04 Nov.  2013. Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay. New York: Scholastic, 2010. Print. “Election Results 2012: Voter Turnout Lower than 2008 and 2004, Report Says.”  ABC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013. Gunders, Dana. “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from  Farm to Fork to Landfill.” NRDC Issue Paper (2012): n. pag. Aug. 2012. Web. 04 Nov. 2013. “U.S. Obesity Rate Climbing in 2013.” U.S. Obesity Rate Climbing in 2013. N.p., n.d.  Web. 04 Nov. 2013.


by Jimmy Schwabe

U.S. policymakers should examine the violence that their society is enabling with the production of violent video games. Violence on our children’s Playstations and Xboxes is creating an acceptable norm in American society: violence is common and “normal.” Want to save your family members from future violence? Listen to Suzanne Collins’s message in The Hunger Games Trilogy. Turn that game off! Don’t continue to be an active “weapon.”

With the release of Collins’s popular sequel movie “Catching Fire,” audiences across America are once again exposed to the images of children brutally killing one another. The worst part is that we will pack the theaters, continue to buy the books for our younger family members, and essentially promote child violence. So what? That violence is in the movies, not in our actions. Guess again.

The entertainment industry has drastically changed over recent years emphasizing “active violence.” Todd Martens explains the horrific reality of the popular “Grand Theft Auto” video game franchise. “Its carjacking, prostitutes and murder scenarios were defended as a satire of violent and misogynistic video game culture.” These new games feature online components where gamers of all agers are able to “trash-talk” one another. A college-age boy delivers the first rape joke. “I don’t care if you’re 12, I’ll still rape you.” The molding of young minds is drastically being altered with exposure to such violent material.

It’s just a video game right? No! We have already seen too much violence in schools with the 13 victims of Columbine, 32 victims at Virginia Tech and 26 victims of Sandy Hook. The boys of Columbine were found to have been fans of the violent game “Doom,” where they were able to create a world that allowed them to kill innocent people. In an in-class presentation modeling “Doom,” the boys dress in trench coats, carry guns and kill school athletes. A year later, this performance became real. Coincidence?

Violence continues to increase in video games with the release of “Grand Theft Auto V” on September 17th. Once in the homes, children of all ages are exposed to it. On Saturday, September 21st, Grand Theft Auto moved away from the screen and onto the main streets of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Zachary Burgess, a 20 year-old Auburn lacrosse player, was arrested after he stole a women’s truck with her still inside. When asked about the event, he said he wanted to play the video game “in real life.”

With the release of “Catching Fire,” audiences had a chance to see how violence has desensitized our society. Katniss Everdeen, Collins’s main youth character, lives in a suffering District on the outskirts of a powerful Capitol. Each year Panem hosts an annual fight to the death, “The Hunger Games,” featuring the youth from each District. In this sequel, we saw the horrific event where Katniss is thrown back into the Games for a second time. We as an audience cheered for a rebellion. That’s right, you were cheering for children to kill.

The issue with our view of the Hunger Games is that we see Katniss’s violence “as problematically justified by the violence inflicted upon her” (Pharr and Clark). We understand why Katniss votes for a continuation of the Games after the rebels win the war. After all, her childhood knows nothing else. Violence is normal. Just like ours…

The violent culture and messages presented throughout the Hunger Games tell us to unplug our video games. We need to see Catching Fire for what it really is. Not the endearing Jennifer Lawrence in a love triangle with the adorable Peeta and handsome Gale. We need to see what violence is doing to our children and ourselves.

But, shutting the game off is not enough. As Santayana once said, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” Katniss will always live with her nightmares of the Games, but her children may not. Her commemorative book is a way to never forget her violent past. We need to realize what Katniss came to grips with in the finale. “They can make me beautiful again. They can design dream weapons that come to life in my hands, but they will never again brainwash me into the necessity of using them.” Once we shut off the games, our job is not finished. It has just begun. We must remember why!

If recent scholars such as Mary Pharr and Leisa Clark are right about Collin’s novel, the culture of violence in America may never go away. “The trilogy reveals the uncomfortable truth…Panem’s potential for amnesia means its citizens may not live in peace long.” Violence is inevitable in a society that allows constant exposure to it. We ask President Obama to save the future children of Sandy Hook. But, it’s not up to him. It’s up to us! It’s time to stop talking and start walking. Save your mother, your brother and that little boy in elementary school. It’s time we look ourselves in the mirror. We are to blame. Now shut it off!

         Works Cited

Collins, Suzanne “Mockingjay” (2010).

Korach, Bill “Violent Video Games Promote Violence” (2012)  http://education-curriculum-reform-government

Martens, Todd “Grand Theft Auto V review: Stubborn sexism, violence ruin game play” (Sept. 2013) sins-of-grand-theft-auto-v/

Moran, Lee “College student steals truck, kidnaps woman while  reenacting Grand Theft Auto” (Sept. 2013). kidnaps-woman-reenacting-grand-theft-auto-article-1.1466867

Pharr, Mary and Leisa Clark “Of Bread, Blood and The Hunger Games”  (2012)

RollingStone “12 Horrifyingly Violent Video Games: History’s most  blood-soaked and gore-spattered releases” (2013).

By Gretchen Cotton

With the recent release of Catching Fire, the sequel to the award winning Hunger Games movie, many youth are flooding movie theaters around the world to see how Katniss and Peeta’s lives have altered since both surviving the arena. While children’s eyes are locked on the screens while eating popcorn with their friends, adults are worrying about how the vast amount of violence in the series is effecting today’s youth, which eventually could be harmful to society.     After reading the first novel of the Hunger Games series, I was struck by how many young people I saw with their faces stuck inside the book and again stunned to see the large amount of young children at the premiere of the first movie. Perhaps the books in this series were not originally created for the youth of the world to read, but like every other source of entertainment, children are being allowed to read, watch, and learn about things that were not intended for them to be exposed to in the first place. When children read the Hunger Games series, is it solely for entertainment, or are they picking up on the educational and life lessons that could be gained from the world of Panem and through the characters like Katniss and Peeta, or are they focusing all their attention on the savagery that surrounds the novels?    From studying the politics of the Hunger Games, it became evident to me that this series is creating a grander damaging impression on adolescences’ thoughts and actions. As a student just a few years older than Katniss and the other tributes, I could see how the amount of violence and rebellion present in the series could negatively influence the youth and young adults alike. Due to the events of September 11th, many people in my generation and younger generations are already extremely skeptical of the government. This suspicion of the government mixed in with the youthful Hunger Games’ characters’ rebellious actions against the government could cause serious issues in my opinion.     This series glorifies violence and rebellion. I am not suggesting that this series is going to cause every child, or any child for that matter to start rebelling against the government, but the term rebellion seems to catch the attention of children these days, which just happens to be what this series is about, attracting more and more young children. I am also not implying that a child is going to begin harming or killing others after seeing the tributes and rebels use violence as a way to survive, but I think it is important to see how this along with other factors in a child’s life could cause violent behaviors to arise. With more and more crimes being committed by children and young adults, it is important that we attempt to uncover factors that are contributing to why children today are more violent and rebellious than they were even a few decades ago.    Now that the series has already been released and viewed by millions of youth around the world there is not a way to change what has already been read or learned, but I believe it would be wise for all producers of any form of entertainment to be aware that even if something is not intended for the youth to get their hands on, they are most likely going to still be exposed to it. And not only are they going to be exposed to it, they are going to be influenced by it and it could produce a negative affect on the child and those around them.

By Katherine Patton-Eilers

The United States government is no better than the one led by President Coin in The Hunger Games. Coin uses children to fight for what she wants and to keep her power. The United States military invades its high schools and recruits fourteen to eighteen year-old children to join its military.

The recruiters promise children belonging, surrogate family, education, heroic status, and the ability to make a difference. They do not mention the likelihood of death, illness, loss of limb, or mental health issues that come with being a soldier. The military recruiters are allowed to enter the classrooms because of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. This Act was presented to the public as the protection of our children and their right to a good education. But, instead it was manipulated by Bush to selfishly include language that allowed these recruiters free access to aggressively recruit in schools, knowing that the United States was on the brink of war.

As a high school student, I remember these recruitments taking place in the school cafeteria two to three times a month. The recruiters would approach young boys and tell them about all of the wonderful things the military would bring to their lives. They held contests in which the boys would do push-ups and chin-ups in order to win propaganda prizes (pens or tee-shirts) that had catchy slogans about what the military could do for them.

Never once did I see a recruiter approach a white boy, only African-American boys. Perhaps they saw them as more marginalized and someone who needs somewhere to belong. The recruiters were always attractive, strong-looking men. The situations I witnessed in my cafeteria are similar to what Katniss Everdeen experiences during her two-year journey in The Hunger Games Trilogy. Especially in Mockingjay when Katniss is recruited and used by President Coin in order to maintain Coin’s power and to manipulate others into following the rebellion.

Katniss has suffered from marginalization for her entire life. Katniss is told, and led to believe, that her participation in the rebellion will bring about freedom and justice. Katniss will be able to make change and to bring a better future for Panem. Katniss is never told about the loss she will suffer, the mental illness, or the manipulation she will endure at the hands of President Coin. Is this any different from what some of our children are experiencing and hearing from the recruiters in their school’s cafeteria?

Katniss is manipulated into becoming a recruiter herself. She is presented to the public as being a beautiful and strong fighter. She is forced to recruit the new warriors and supporters of the rebellion. As in my high school, the students who were told they would be great in the military, then went around the school in new military clothing they received from the recruiters, telling others of how much opportunity they will also gain by joining the military. There is no difference between Katniss and my friends who were manipulated by the military. The United States government does not seem to acknowledge or care about the risk children are facing in becoming soldiers. Children should not face these life-changing decisions and should not be persuaded by adults who withhold information. The American Journal of Public Health found that the youngest soldiers have the worst health effects from serving in the military. It also published that young soldiers are up to 60% more likely to have substance abuse problems and mental illness. Not unlike Katniss who struggles with mental illness at the end of the novel.

When people read Mockingjay, they look at President Coin as a horrible, selfish, and ruthless leader, but shouldn’t people look at the United States government in the same way? As Katniss says, “…something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences”. I agree with Katniss when I look at my government’s military recruitment of its children.

References Used: Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay. New York: Scholastic, 2010. Print.

Hagopian, Amy, and Kathy Barker. “Should We End Military Recruiting in High Schools as a  Matter of Child Protection and Public Health?” American Journal of Public Health 101.1 (2011):  19-23. PDF file.


By:  Evan Comer

Historians ponder an important question–at what point does “memory” become “history”?  For nations, states, and societies, seeking to move past periods of conflict, the implications of this question are huge.  Whose memories get to become history? What are the implications of those who get “left out” of our histories?  These are questions that are applicable for Egyptians today, as they move forward with the trial of former President Mohammed Morsi.

How will Egyptians remember this period of violence and bloodshed?  How will the traumas of conflict determine what memories are included, and (maybe even more importantly) what memories are omitted from the collective history of post-Revolution Egypt?

A tale of cautionary advice for Egyptians may be found, perhaps surprisingly enough, in Suzanne Collins’s popular works of fiction, The Hunger Games trilogy.

In Collins’s dystopian Panem, the Hunger Games are an institution established to punish the citizens of the outlying Districts for rising up against the Capitol.  Each year, at a ceremony dubbed “the Reaping,” two tributes from each district are selected to participate in a blood battle to the death.  The citizens of the Capitol meet the spectacle with great amusement, while those of the Districts greet the annual occurrence with forced participation.

When a propaganda film is shown in the first Hunger Games film, the narrator tellingly states, “this is how we choose to remember our history.”  In short, the Capitol has imposed its conceptualization of history on the Districts.  The Capitol won, so the Districts must be punished.  The citizens of these districts will forever and always be rebels.  They are doomed to a past, present, and future as second-class to their victors.

This is why the choices we make when we tell our history are important.  When we choose to remember our history in a certain way–in the black and the white, with winners and losers– we alienate, we other, and we segregate.  We determine who “belongs” and who is “outside.”

This is especially important when it comes to traumatic memories induced by conflict.   In Egypt today, the signs of struggle between what is “legitimate” memory and what is to be left out are evident.

In a fateful example of the Rabaa al-Adawiya protests, which ultimately led to the death of over forty-five protestors in August of this past year.  The Morsi government claimed that potentially thousands were killed on the August 14th date throughout the country.  An official inquiry into the matter, however, led nowhere.  To date, only one police officer has been prosecuted for the events that transpired.

In the end, justice is denied to the victims and truth is denied to a country that is trying to heal from previous acts of violence.

In the Hunger Games series penultimate novel, Mokingjay, the rebels plan to reinstitute the Hunger Games to punish the Capitol after they capture President Snow.  Katniss, the novel’s heroine, realizes that this would doom the perpetuation of more inequality and more unnecessary bloodshed retaliates, killing the rebel leader, President Coin, and effectively ensures that the rebels cannot impose the same oppression on the Capitol as was imposed upon them.  In short, Katniss’s actions recharted the course, ending an unsustainable institution of oppression.

The same sort of new path must be forged through transitional justice in Egypt.  By definition, transitional justice is “a set of judicial and non-judicial measures implemented…to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses.”  Necessarily, Egyptians must seek prosecution of offenses committed under previous regimes (including the Mubarak regime, the Morsi regime, and the new military-appointed government), establishment of truth commissions, reparations for victims of war crimes and human rights violations, and reforms to the political, judicial, and security apparatuses that failed to prevent violence previously.

For Egyptians, just like for the characters of Collins’ trilogy, the question going forward will be to what extent they let their past, with its trauma, its loss, and its bloodshed, define their future.  Will their past mandate victory for one group over the other, or will it mandate reconstruction and reconciliation?  Will their past require revenge and retribution, or will it demand true restorative justice be served?

In these ways traumatic memory and history have very real implications for the lives of Egyptians today.  As their country faces some very important questions going forward with the Morsi trial and beyond, they will have to choose the ways in which they remember their own past.


Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (Scholastic: New York, 2008)

Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay (Scholastic: New York, 2010)

Kareem Fahim and Mayy El Sheikh, “Memory of a Mass Killing Becomes Another Casualty of Egyptian Protests,” The New York Times.  November 13, 2013.

Ahmed Morsy, “Transitional Justice:  Egypt’s Way Forward,” Middle East Institute. July 26, 2013.

by Andre Smith

With the release of the new Catching Fire film, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games has sparked a new discussion and critique of contemporary society that can help to point toward political change. “In return for full bellies and entertainment, his people have given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power.” This may sound like a usual critique of President Barack Obama’s “liberal welfare policies,” but the statement is actually by Chief gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee from The Hunger Games and points to the similarities between Panem and America. The Capitol wants its people to remain apathetic through entertainment and excess, keeping them under their oppressive government. Is this not similar to how Americans disengage from the political process today and lose their political autonomy in the process? The Hunger Games series suggests the importance of popular participation in the political process and can serve as a call to action for disempowered Americans.

Recently, American political involvement has been low, while entertainment engagement has been high. In 2010, more people watched the Super Bowl than voted in the midterm elections. American voter turnout in the 2012 election was 5 percent less than in 2008 and 3 percent less than in 2004, showing an uptick in political apathy. This goes alongside the fact that over 200 million Americans participate in yearly Black Friday shopping sprees. These statistics suggest that citizens are appeased and satisfied by superficial and materialistic means and may be disinterested in the political process. This is much like citizens of the Capitol in The Hunger Games, which Katniss realizes in the third book, “I think about the Capitol. The excess of food. And the ultimate entertainment. The Hunger Games…‘Yes. And as long as that kept rolling in, the Capitol could control its little empire,’ says Plutarch.”

The political apathy exhibited by Americans and citizens of fictional Capitol of Panem allows them to lose political power. Lack of popular participation in politics has arguably contributed to much of the political gridlock and in Congress today. Because of this lack of political awareness, special interests and corporate groups have been able to infiltrate the American political process where political elites are not held accountable for their actions and vote in ways that do not reflect the views of most citizens.  For example, according to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, 79 percent of Americans support universal gun background checks but because of interest groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA), a law providing just that was blocked in Congress. This political apathy could also be linked to other controversial issues, such as the continued use of drone strikes on American citizens abroad. Even though only 24 percent of Americans approve of these strikes, they have continued. Lack of action on both of these issues has led to more violence. This violence is preventable, but only with an active citizenry in the political process.

The Hunger Games shows how a public that is consumed and distracted with entertainment and excess can have continued loss of political power, much like many Americans today. The film and book should inspire a push for action and involvement in the political process to ensure that politicians are held accountable for their actions and citizens retain their political autonomy. In order to retain political power, Americans must stay informed on the issues, vote, and hold politicians accountable for their actions while in office.

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