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The Enemy’s Gate is Down

January 5, 2009

I saw this just as I was starting to reread Ender’s Game
.   Video arcades are being used to recruit soldiers.   I can’t help thinking that conscientious objectors, protestors and GI counselors should hand out copies of Ender’s Game
as an antidote. Yes- the first half glorifies battle games, the zero gee of the battle school. But it takes a darker turn, psychologically. Ender shows the weight of war on a soldier, on a young kid pressured beyond the limit of what a grown man should handle.

The reason I love science fiction is that I value its place as social commentary. Creating a strange world full of aliens and futuristic impossibilities sets up a construct of what is and is not normal in society. What if the world were different? What if impossibly young children, ten and eleven, were recruited by the American army? How would families feel? What if we faced an alien threat?

What if violent video games took their logic a step further, and became tools for recruiting soldiers? Or part of wars themselves? We’re there. In war, it’s easier to call the enemy “buggers” than to honor their culture. It’s easier to push a button than it is to fire a gun. Science fiction plays out the cautionary tales of misunderstanding, alienation, creating monsters and enemies out of the misunderstood other. It’s really about central questions, central emotions. Just, sometimes, cast out into the galaxy, their humanness transfigured as a proving ground for what’s true.

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