I haven’t yet seen Mockingly Part 1, but I want to share some reflections from when I saw Catching Fire last year towards the beginning of my year in the Pink House. During that time I was being exposed to poverty and injustice for what felt like the first time. I knew such things existed in the U.S., but I was seeing them for the first time. When I watched Catching Fire, I was hit by the juxtaposition of the Capitol and the Districts during Katniss and Peeta’s victory tour.
The Capitol is extravagant; its residents lead privileged lives. They want for nothing in a life that revolves around entertainment and pleasure. The most striking example of the Capitol’s excess occurs during the final night of the tour. A guest suggests Peeta sample a dessert, which he declines as he is full. Peeta is then offered a drink that will make him sick so he can eat more. “How else can you taste everything?” the guest asks. When alone with Katniss, Peeta angrily observes, “People are starving in Twelve. Here they’re just throwing it out to stuff more in.” The poverty and bleakness of the Districts are a world away from the Capitol.
However, the residents of the Capitol know that things are not right in the Districts. The most appalling part of the story is that the worst act of injustice against the districts – The Hunger Games – happens in full view of the Capitol. The Hunger Games are publicized and celebrated. The residents of the Capitol become fond of the tributes and are sad to see them die. But at the end of the Games, the Tributes are nothing more than characters on a show to the people of the Capitol.
The residents of the Capitol don’t embrace the fact that the characters they claim to love are people too. Real people with hopes and fears, dreams, wants and needs. They need food. They need proper homes. They need freedom from the dread that they or someone they love will be selected to go into an arena and be killed. Or perhaps worse, they will survive knowing that 23 other people are dead in their place. That is the reality of the Hunger Games. Yet the people of the Capitol do nothing to stop it even though the horrors of the Hunger Games are far from secret. At the end of the day, the Hunger Games and the people in them are just a show.
The tributes become dehumanized characters because we don’t want to face the reality of suffering and injustice, two realities of our world. We see photos and videos of the poor and oppressed in our world every day. We don’t look at these images for entertainment, but how often do we let it sink in that these are real people with real challenges? We know there is great suffering and injustice in the world, yet I think we often go back to the safety of our comfy lives rather than suffer alongside these people made in the image of God. Every hungry child, every battered woman, every sad face you have ever seen is a human made in the image of God. It is a person loved by God more than we could ever imagine.
But sometimes, for me, that truth only sinks in when I know the person. Up close. With shared experiences, with having a meal together, with hearing their story. I have learned that stories are incredibly powerful. While a show can make you feel something without driving you to act, stories humanize suffering. They make you realize that this is happening to real people and cannot be dismissed.
Whose story can you seek out? Whose life can you enter into? Who can you let enter into your life? It will cost. It’s probably harder than anything else you could do. But anyone who is in Christ can do this. He has empowered us to love and to have compassion. And when the heartbreak seems too much to bear, he is there. Don’t fear the pain in others’ stories. Step into it. And there you will find God.