Special Appearance by Zach Powers
This is the second post the Literary Table presents by Zach Powers from SeerSucker Live discussing Orson Scott Card and his work Ender’s Game as a reflection of and distinctive from his identity. You can find his first post here Like their Facebook page to stay up to date on performances here in Savannah and abroad. (Because everything outside of Savannah is just abroad!).
Zach is a writer that lives in Savannah, and his work has appeared in South Magazine, the Savannah Morning News, and other publications. Welcome back Zach!
’m not so naïve to believe that a creative work is completely separate from its creator, but the disheartening fact is that even a jerk can create something full of humanity and compassion. The problem becomes more tangible when an author is still living, when it seems that to purchase a book is to put money directly into the pocket of a person with whom you strongly disagree.
But here’s the thing with Ender’s Game. There is absolutely none of Card’s hate within it. In fact, one of the main themes is empathy.
“I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the same way they love themselves.”
So speaks our hero, Ender. I’ve carried that sentence with me for twenty years. It might be the very sentence that allows me now to stand in opposition to the opinions Card espouses.
The novel’s other themes include isolation, ostracization, and innocence, and all are handled with admirable compassion. Ender must learn, at once, to make friends and also fend for himself. He must face down personal demons while learning to accept them. He must battle against those who seek to define his existence. He must, above all else, prevail.
Ender is a creature of almost pure empathy, of crystalline understanding. Through this character, Ender’s Game explores and teaches a philosophy directly opposed to the arguments Card makes against LGBT rights. The young author argues against his older, commentator self.
My argument is this: The potential benefits from reading this book, especially for a teenaged audience, greatly outweigh the negative effects of indirectly supporting Card in his reactionary mission. For a young adult dealing with an emerging LGBT identity or any similar struggle, this would be one of the first novels I’d recommend. It shows how to face hatred, not just from the outside, but self-hatred as well. It teaches that being different is a source of strength.
What’s the broader benefit of depriving Card of a few more dollars? His rants reach only the choir, and nobody outside of that choir is giving his arguments weight. Buying a copy of the novel will not increase his stature. Renting the movie of the book will not elevate Card to the level of Ender’s would-be emperor brother, Peter. I picture Card shouting down one of the long, curving corridors of the Battle School, his voice echoing back only to his own ears. Eventually, he’ll shout himself out.
The book, however, will endure for people like me. Twenty years, thirty readings later. How many times have I invoked that one phrase, “love them the same way they love themselves,” instead of rushing to judge someone? So I won’t judge Card now. There are enough people doing that already, rightfully so.
I refuse to boycott a book that can mean something real to someone in need of that reality. Card’s book is better than he is, and it would be a shame to silence a great work in a futile attempt to shut him up as well. There is more good to be found in the book than any evil Card can actually enact, even if he pleads for such evil with all his strength.
If my approach still doesn’t sit well with you, let me offer a final compromise. After I saw the Ender’s Game movie, I donated twice the ticket price to the It Gets Better Project. That will provide significantly more for a good cause than any pennies Card might receive to indirectly fund his fringe ramblings. I prefer positive action to acts of negation.
The movie opens with a quote from the novel, a line that Ender speaks just before the one I quoted above:
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that moment I also love him.”
When it comes to the issue of love, Orson Scott Card is my enemy. I have a hard time understanding him, though. I suspect that’s OK. He probably wouldn’t react well to a profession of love coming from another man, anyway.
If you want to hit Card where it hurts, share his book, and let it teach a new generation to accept and love all people in a way that Card himself can’t.
Zach can be contacted via his website http://www.zachpowers.com. For the latest news and writings, follow his twitter feed @z_powers.
A lot of his work delves into understanding and empathy – “Traitor” comes to mind, as well as “Kingsmeat”, but over them all is “Songmaster”. Read that, and consider that maybe, just maybe, people are making of Card’s message what they want to, instead of what he tries to communicate.
After all, it’s widely reported in the Pern fandom that Anne McCaffrey had some … unusual views on homosexuality.