I’m still struggling: what to do about the upcoming release of “Ender’s Game” (one of my favourite novels from young adulthood) when it is released in November (now only a week away)? I’ve already commented on my potential boycott (Bowles, 2013); and I completely agree with those who won’t be seeing it, such as Leah Rhyne, in Charleston (Rhyne, 2013). I totally respect her position: in particular because she is speaking her perspective from the South. But she also discovered Card’s writing relatively late in his career: after his anti-gay rhetoric ha reached its peak. That makes a huge difference.
Understand that in trying to deal with this issue, I’ve had to bring in some philosophical directions with regard to what little postmodern training I’ve received. To be specific: the idea that what Card wrote in 1984, and what he might write today, and what I received when I read it (c. 1987?) and what I receive now when I read it, are four completely different, and almost independent, perspectives. If he were to write the book today (if he writes any book today), I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. (Okay, not quite true. I would (and have) acquired some of his recent material from the library so that he gains minimal profit from it, and I write about my impression: such as with his novella “Hamlet’s Father” (Bowles, 2013). I was careful.) But by “not touching it” now I wouldn’t get out of it the fantastic insights that I got in the 1980s: but then I’m not able to receive them currently. (Been there, done that.) Now: I actually don’t think that Card is capable of writing what the kind of work he did back then, that would have the kind of influence on me that this book had back in the 80s. We happened to intersect, as did many people: Card’s writing and my need for interpersonal direction. What I experience in interpersonal needs today will not… cannot… be met by someone like Mr. Card.
To be specific: back c. 1987 I was a recently graduated student from the Moody Bible Institute, a conservative Christian College in Chicago. I had moved to a new country, and for three years I had isolated myself from the rest of the world, to learn what my newly found faith had to teach me. I was just returning to “the world” and needed to know how to relate. Not just how to meet people of other faiths, but how to interact with them, to respect and be respected by them, to know and to help and to love them. I had a fresh new diploma in pastoral studies, yet I hardly knew how to live. Card’s book, through Ender Wiggin, helped me to see that. If you’ve never read the book, you won’t understand (and I don’t know now the movie will fare), but some reviews come close. “Oddly enough, the movie is about compassion and empathy…”, or “One of the great things about the book is its themes of compassion and tolerance to the Other; it’s all about, you cannot understand someone until you’ve walked in their shoes” (Total Film: YouTube, 2013). Those helped me to relate to, and understand, the many people in my life who lived with other perspectives: Americans, atheists, Evangelicals; Southerners and Yanks; Progressives, Conservatives, Liberals: the list goes on. And from the evidence around me, I’d say I’ve done a pretty good job.
Although Mr. Card created an excellent story and characters: that was decades ago. What I see of him today tells me that he is a different man, with a different perspective. New priorities have eclipsed his once-brilliant style. Although I’ve respected him and bought entirely too many of his books, I discovered a few years ago that, without knowing it, I had become his enemy. When I “came out” after trying to be married to my ex-wife for ten years (I’m sure Mr. Card would have approved of such self-styled denial), and in particular when I married my current husband, I added to the effort to destroy democracy. “[G]iving legal recognition to ‘gay marriage’…. marks the end of democracy in America.” (Card: Deseret News, 2008)
Ouch. I thus became one of his arch-enemies. In the book, they’re called the “Formics”, or the “buggers” (an oddly strange bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?). But in this real-life war of social provision and politics, Mr. Card didn’t treat us… doesn’t treat us… with the same kind of respect that Ender showed his alien foes. Read some of his writing. He doesn’t even try to look at the world, to look at love, through our eyes; he literally says its impossible. “[N]o act of court or Congress that can make these relationships the same as the coupling between a man and a woman.” (Ibid) So why even try? It is hard to believe that the same mind that penned Ender Wiggin’s thoughts about Battle School and alien genocide wanted to treat me and my kind (until recent legal rulings) as though we did not, do not, and should not, exist. He “finds the comparison between civil rights based on race and supposed new rights being granted for what amounts to deviant behavior to be really kind of ridiculous. There is no comparison. A black as a person does not by being black harm anyone. Gay rights is a collective delusion that’s being attempted.” (Minkowitz, Salon: 2000) So now I’m warped, ridiculous and deluded, as well as beneath him. (Figuratively.)
I have one explanation for this: and it completely works for me. This is why I’ll go go see Ender’s Game, and will not feel guilty about it. It will, in fact, be something of a memorial. The person who wrote the story I loved has… evolved. Changed. He is no more. What we see is evidence of how a man’s faith can crystallize and become a religion. And in the process, it strangles creativity and expression and love. And self. Jesus talked about it repeatedly; Mr. Card would make a wonderful parable. “There once was a teacher from Utah who sang wonderful stories, but who became so wrapped in legalism and words and judging that he forgot how to make music. He tried not to be a Pharisee, but in the end they were the only ones who would listen to him. They claimed him as their own, and they all laughed when he tried to sing, because nothing came out. It was all so sad.”