April 20, 2014

SCHULMAN | Ender’s Game and Divestment: The Price of Compromise

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Ender’s Game is Orson Scott Card’s best work and a pleasure to read. The plot revolves around Andrew “Ender” Wiggins, who moves away from his scary big brother to a boarding school in space where he learns to fight aliens. Yes, this book sounds like a 10-year-old boy’s fantasy, but it seriously addresses childhood, empathy and human nature. Ender’s Game transcends the science fiction label. It’s not just good science fiction; it’s a good novel in general. It captures the broad spectrum of human experience, which is surprising considering Card’s narrow mindedness about homosexuality. He has such a knack for making inflammatory comments about homosexuals that fans decided they couldn’t enjoy the film adaptation of his book knowing the royalties went to him.

Although fans didn’t miss out on much by skipping the Ender’s Game movie (science fiction movies surrounded by hype always disappoint), skipping the movie for political reasons seems extreme. Fans couldn’t find a middle ground between enjoying the movie and vocalizing their disgust with its author’s opinions. Obviously, speaking out is important, but abstaining from a movie because you personally give Card a few dollars in royalties is going overboard. I bring this up because fans went overboard protesting Ender’s Game in the same way as Cornell students have when the Student Assembly introduced Resolution 72. The resolution proposed Cornell divest its endowment from companies arbitrarily determined to be profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The S.A. tabled the resolution (the responsible decision, considering they weren’t elected to comment on global politics on the student body’s behalf), but the debate surrounding the resolution has been more of a screaming match (students literally yelled at each other after the vote) than the dialogue it should be.

The problem is that our campus and country are more partisan than ever — at least in terms of Science-Fiction and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nobody objected to Ender’s Game’s release in 1986 even though Card made his homophobic views public knowledge by the early 90s. But, things have changed. Fan’s objection to the movie was overwhelming; partially because society increasingly accepts homosexuality, which is good, and partially because we don’t compromise anymore, which isn’t. This relates to our discussion on campus over Israel and Palestine’s future because partisanship prevents both sides from talking with each other — which is problematic considering that skipping dialogue over Israel’s relationship with Palestine for partisanship has bigger consequences than skipping a movie. Students for Justice in Palestine brought the issue to Student Assembly, a neutral third party, in the form of Resolution 72 because SJP didn’t believe its detractors would compromise on meaningful action.

If we want dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must go out of our way to listen to the other side. A big contributor to our one-sidedness is our newfound control over news with social media. We tend to miss out on or deliberately avoid opinions that challenge our way of thinking because social media insulates us to our friends and neighbors’ opinions. Generally, fans who know enough about Orson Scott Card to protest the movie are friends and don’t temper each other with their posts to Facebook and Twitter. In the same way, I doubt supporters and detractors of Resolution 72 are Facebook friends — or dominate each other’s new feeds — considering how they kept to themselves during the meeting. The resolutions’ supporters probably spammed each others’ news-feeds calling to end the Israeli apartheid while those against it spammed each other with posts about standing up to an anti-semitic, sneak attack. For dialogue, we must bend over backwards and hear both sides of the story — which isn’t that hard considering most political groups have online blogs. Maybe, check out the blog written by the group you didn’t join.

You can easily pick sides in the controversies surrounding Resolution 72 and Ender’s Game, but I challenge you to compromise. If you skipped Ender’s Game for political reasons, go see it. If you feel guilty, attend a rally or make a donation supporting inclusion. Your political action is necessary and way more valuable than the petty amount you personally give Orson Scott Card in royalties. If you disagree with someone about Resolution 72, try understanding their point of view.  Or don’t — Orson Scott Card would approve considering he refuses to understand why anyone might object to his opinions. We can’t move toward meaningful action until both sides are invested in each others’ interests. Both Israelis and Palestinians sincerely believe Israel is their home. Garnering enough political support for a resolution (or organizing a peace rally instead — now that the weather is good, I love excuses to be outside) requires cooperation. Unfortunately, we’re not at the point we can cooperate (although I’d love to be proven wrong). In the mean time, while the issues are fresh, we should drop the partisanship and start talking with each other.