Political themes in “The Hunger Games”
by Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 3/23/12
“A lot of people are reading political themes into it,” said Stuart Varney on his morning Fox Business show. Reviews are right to feel uncertain about “The Hunger Games.” A new generation identifies with it and rises with it. It is insidious and deep like a changing tide and it reaches in symbol to the deepest anthropological feminine cord; that of Diana, the huntress. Incidentally, so did Sarah Palin. The NY Times front page review in the first line links the picture with the words “teenage survivalist” – the phrase associated with random right militia movements of the 1980s. Others have asked correctly if “The Hunger Games” insinuates “Tea Party” values. No, but yes.
The book was published in 2008 and it was April, 2009 when the phrase “Tea Party” came into vogue with the daily rantings of Glenn Beck and Fox and company. But it does bring to mind the “prehistory” of the Tea Party and the values of Jeffersonian opposition which came to oppose in the George W. Bush era when it appears that Suzanne Collins was writing her trilogy.
I tend to know some of those involved and if there ever was a female survivalist-type inspiration to author Collins that could well be the formidable Carolyn Chute, author of “The Beans of Egypt, Maine.” Carolyn and Thomas Naylor, a retired Duke professor who lives In Vermont, in fact began the general opposition to Washington at the beginning of the invasion of Iraq making the claim that their north country New England states and mine need not participate in the war on Iraq. (Disclosure: I helped.)
Few were interested then but when the Obama administration appeared later, the same arguments of state sovereignty and non-cooperation with the feds, again based on Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions of 1797, were introduced by Rep. Dan Itse and a neighbor of mine to the state legislature in Concord, NH, making the case against Obamacare. 29 states quickly followed suit and the Tea Party rose from that.
Naylor started then the separatist The Second Vermont Republic with the support of Carolyn and found agreement with America’s great ambassador George Kennan, who wrote to him, “All power to Vermont in its effort to distinguish itself from the USA as a whole . . .”
Kennan was the inspiration for this thinking and had recently presented a vision of the United States in his book, Around the Cragged Hill: A Personal and Political Philosophy. Kennan’s ideas, wrote one reviewer in Foreign Affairs “ . . . range from benchmarks for thought (why not a United States broken into smaller, more cohesive republics?), to long-term approaches to constitutional governance (a council of state beside the legislative and executive branches as custodian of national interests that would be above immediate political tugs), to more specific guidance (a foreign policy limited, insofar as possible, to permitting the United States to get on with internal renovation).
Kennan envisioned an America devolved to – guess what – 12 districts.
“I have often diverted myself, and puzzled my friends” Kennan wrote, “ by wondering how it would be if our country, while retaining certain of the rudiments of a federal government, were to be decentralized into something like a dozen constituent republics, absorbing not only the powers of the existing states but a considerable part of those of the present federal establishment . . . To these entities I would accord a larger part of the present federal powers than one might suspect—large enough, in fact, to make most people gasp.”