How responsible is Ender?

Discuss all things pertaining to the EnderVerse milieu.
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How responsible is Ender?

Postby Soara » Tue Oct 10, 2006 4:40 pm

I feel like this section of the forum is getting off to a slow start, so I'll just put this question out there:

How responsible do you think Ender is for the deaths of the buggers?

I think he's only minimally responsible.

MOST of the responsibility lies with those who ran the Battle School. Here's my reason: THEY intended for the buggers to die. They dedicated many decades of hard labor to the cause of destroying the buggers.

There's the possibility that part of it was inevitable and no one could have prevented it. Communication was impossible, so there's no way to tell if the other is trying to kill you -- so try to kill them first.
That sounds wrong to me, but I don't know the whole situation. Maybe that WAS true. But I think that if everyone had dedicated as much energy toward trying to commicate with the buggers as they had to trying to destroy them, they could have succeeded.

And of course the buggers themselves share some of the blame. It seems like they didn't start to seriously try to communicate with the humans until it was too late. They managed to sucessfully communicate with Ender, but fat lot of good it did them. Why didn't they try that earlier? I'm sure Ender's not the ONLY human capable of understanding them. It would be HARD, sure, but possible.

Also, the buggers started the war. BUT, they didn't realize that killing one human being was a bad thing. You can't blame them for not understanding that. BUT, they also wanted to colonize our planet -- they were bringing a queen with them.
BUT, they also wanted peace after the Second Invasion -- they just didn't tell anybody!

Ender's responsibility? He has some. He was kind of a bystander -- he let the system pull him through, and he didn't stand up to stop it. He followed the mindset of the general population, he thought the buggers were monsters and wanted them dead as much as the next person. That alone is not a huge responsibility, though it is some. Was the average German citizen responsible for the Holocaust? Yes, but not a huge amount.

Before the Third Invasion, Ender wasn't any more capable of communicating with the buggers than anyone else. Maybe he could have realized that the battle he was fighting was the real thing, maybe not. The fact is, I think, that he DID NOT KNOW what he was doing. THEY intended for him not to know. THEY knew what he was doing, THEY wanted it.

I think this is a quote somewhere from OSC: How can you blame a blind person for not warning you about... an oncoming car? I don't know, I forget the quote, but you get the idea.

Another point for Ender is that the buggers themselves forgave him. If the victim forgives the murderer, how can we not? Of course, forgiving doesn't mean Ender was faultless, it just means he didn't have any deeply-rooted evil intentions. No human is without blame for something, but whether you can forgive them or not depends on what their intentions and their believes truly were.
BUT, then again, HE blames himself. Maybe that means that he believes he could have realized it was the real thing. Maybe that means he thinks he would have done the same thing, had he known. Maybe it's just irrational self-obsession, that everyone of us is at least partially a slave to. I don't know.

Ender was brain-washed into thinking the buggers were monsters. His own human nature decrees that he should follow what the society believes, and act on his belief.

But that doesn't mean he couldn't have acted against his human nature, and should have, and that's where the blame lies, as well as the blame for every one of the Nazis and the countless other murderer-armies in history.

I don't know. I might be beating a dead horse, or whatever. This question has been asked through out the entire 20th century, and the answer is, I think, you have to be responsible for your own actions, because how else can society run? Even if you were forced into doing things.

But I want to hear everyone's input, since we like arguing.

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Postby neo-dragon » Tue Oct 10, 2006 6:03 pm

I don't think that he's responsible at all. For one, he was 11 years old, and under the influence of the battle school administrators since he was 6. Second, he didn't even know that it was real. It's like if you were playing Halo online and then afterward someone tells you that every player that you killed in the game was killed in real life because you were actually giving orders to a real soldier in combat. Should you go to jail? No, because a large part of the law is based on being able to reasonably foresee consequences. Given the circumstances, Ender could not have been expected to foresee the consequences of his actions, both because he was a child and because he was being deliberately deceived. Therefore, he's not responsible for those consequences.

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Postby Bevis » Tue Oct 10, 2006 7:10 pm

I tend to think that Ender's only defense is his young age. He committed this act with the mentality and dependence of a child. This creates the validity in neo-dragon's argument. I don't feel this works as far as an adult being absolved of guilt because they were brainwashed and/or misled. Good examples being the manson family or suicide bombers (should one get it only half right). These adults with years, possibly decades, of life experience behind them are still guru'd into mass killings. Of course, many adult suicide bombers are taught there beliefs from a very early age.

Ender discovered the reality while only in his youth. This probably aided his empathy towards the beaten & destroyed buggers because as a bright yet still dependant child he understood what it meant to have someone else in control, to have someone else governing your life or death. Then feeling such empthy for the ones he killed made him guilty in his own eyes regardless of the opinion of others.

Given the omnipent view of an audience I'm sure I'd find him innocent if I were on the jury.

As for the adult killers taught to kill since childhood, I wouldn't want them walking around my street wether they felt guilty or not.

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Postby neo-dragon » Tue Oct 10, 2006 7:18 pm

Bevis wrote: I don't feel this works as far as an adult being absolved of guilt because they were brainwashed and/or misled. Good examples being the manson family or suicide bombers (should one get it only half right). These adults with years, possibly decades, of life experience behind them are still guru'd into mass killings. Of course, many adult suicide bombers are taught there beliefs from a very early age.



But it goes back to what I said about reasonable foresight. A person is expected to know that actions that will probably cause death are wrong, and therefore they should be held responsible for them, regardless of how their mind has been twisted into justifying them. However, Ender could not have known that his actions were causing harm.

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Re: How responsible is Ender?

Postby Blitz » Fri Oct 13, 2006 8:29 pm

On the communication issue:

Soara wrote:Communication was impossible, so there's no way to tell if the other is trying to kill you -- so try to kill them first.
That sounds wrong to me, but I don't know the whole situation. Maybe that WAS true. But I think that if everyone had dedicated as much energy toward trying to commicate with the buggers as they had to trying to destroy them, they could have succeeded.

And of course the buggers themselves share some of the blame. It seems like they didn't start to seriously try to communicate with the humans until it was too late. They managed to sucessfully communicate with Ender, but fat lot of good it did them. Why didn't they try that earlier? I'm sure Ender's not the ONLY human capable of understanding them. It would be HARD, sure, but possible.


After the destruction over China and other countries, I think a certain amount of recoil is reasonable, thus, the lack of communication. The species barrier was also an issue--how does a philotic being talk to an auditory-language being?

Also, as far as we know, no human but Ender can directly speak to the hive queen, because of the bridge known as Jane. The only way other humans have been able to hear her (in later books) seems to be because they have a connection with Ender. I don't think they could have contacted humans except by creating a "bridge", and they couldn't find a "body" until after discovering the Fantasy Game through their attempts to contact Ender.

Could the buggers have contacted humans without Ender? I personally don't think so, but I'm sure there are arguments for it. Just my thoughts.
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Postby KennEnder » Sat Oct 14, 2006 9:11 am

What a bummer! I wrote a whole essay and when I tried to post it, I had been logged out and lost the essay!

In short, I don't think Ender, or even his supervisors, were "responsible" for killing the buggers. Not only was Ender too young, it wasn't something they could have prevented. If Ender hadn't been the one to kill the buggers, another student (Bean?) would have been trained. If Graff and Anderson hadn't trained them, they would have been replaced. Militaries are very unforgiving of individuals who buck the system, and during times of war the penalty can be death! It's not like it was a small, extremist cult trying to anhilate the buggers, it was the "concensus" of the whole world! These people were merely tools, and if they hadn't done their job, someone else would have.

Not that "hiding behind your job" is a valid excuse for committing atrocities, because it's not. But it's hard to use values we have developed in a "peace-time" environment and apply them to war. Values change, and life/death are much different. Soldiers who kill in battle are not tried for murder, nor should they be. Only abuses of the system are questioned... and of course, the "losers" are always wrong.

Anyway, I had a lot more, but I'm worried about getting kicked off again. I think and type too slowly nowadays, apparently.

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Postby peterlocke123 » Sat Oct 14, 2006 7:16 pm

I think Ender is only minimally resposible, if any. Basically, everything has been said. He was aimed, although he pulled the trigger, I'm sure anyone else in his shoes would have done the same. I know I would have. It was just a game, right?

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Postby Soara » Sun Oct 15, 2006 1:19 pm

Thank you everyone for your comments. If I wasn't sick, brain dead, and backed up on work, I would post something more related to the tread. But I did enjoy reading everyone's comments.

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Postby anonshadow » Sun Oct 15, 2006 2:42 pm

I think Ender does deserve some of the responsibility for the destruction of the buggers. Ender went for the kill; pure and simple. Sure, he wasn't told that it wasn't a game, but I think that, at some point, he figured it out, at least on a subconscious level. Ender is not an idiot; he isn't Bean, but he is certainly not an idiot. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that he did not at the very least subconsciously suspect that it was real--and he was capable of doing what he did, even before he was put in the hands of the people at the school.

He killed a kid before he was sent up to Battle School, and he killed another kid while he was there. He, again, is not stupid. He had to have known on some level that what he was doing could, and probably would, cause someone's death. He didn't fight to disable. He didn't fight to disarm. He fought to kill. He fought to destroy any ability on the part of his opponent to ever fight back.

He was a child, and that does absolve him to some extent. He was also conditioned to behave in that manner, which also goes toward absolving him--again, to some extent.

At the end of the day, though--would he have acted differently if he'd known?



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Postby neo-dragon » Sun Oct 15, 2006 4:00 pm

It's not a matter of him not being stupid though. No matter how smart you are, you need all the pieces to put a puzzle together. Ender didn't know about the ansible. He couldn't have known that it was even possible for the "simulation" to be real. Bean deduced the existence of the ansible, but again, that's due to his super-human intellect. It also helped that Bean's upbringing gave him something of a paranoid distrust of people. Ender was a genius, but he was still just a child, and most children who have normal upbringings are inclined to trust what adults tell them. You also have to remember that Ender went for the planet because he thought it was a game. He was fed up, and wanted it to end. He didn't even do it to win, he thought he was forfeiting. I can't hold an 11 year old kid responsible for not seeing through the manipulations of adults who aren't exactly dimwits themselves.

As for the question of whether he would have acted differently? I don't know. That presents a different scenario in which the assessment of responsibility would be different.

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Postby eriador » Tue Oct 24, 2006 3:22 pm

I see a lot of people touching on the idea that Ender was only a child. That makes sense, and it reminded me of something.

Once the last battle is over and Ender realizes what it is that he's done, he is no longer a child, he's lost that innocence. What does everybody else think?

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Postby peterlocke123 » Tue Oct 24, 2006 6:24 pm

I agree. He was innocent up until that point. However, he didn't view himself as innocent at all. Evident from the contents of The Hive Queen. Anyone wish that we read The Hive Queen and The Hegemon?
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Postby human. » Wed Oct 25, 2006 6:40 pm

I think Ender has to be at least somewhat responsible. Even if he's a child, he knew that he was getting moved ahead faster than the others in Battle school, and he knew they(teachers or whoever you want to say was in charge) needed him. With that said, I'd always call him innocent though, because the story is written for you to like him and I do.

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Postby eriador » Wed Oct 25, 2006 7:20 pm

But he'd been treated that way all of his life. Plus, even if it DID seem out of place to him in the final days, there was no way of knowing that it wasn't a game. Even though he may have been directly responsible, I don't think he's morally responsible.

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Postby Soara » Fri Oct 27, 2006 8:19 pm

I don't understand why children are viewed as "innocent". It seems to me that children are usually crueler than adults. They haven't yet learned compassion.
Are they innocent because they don't understand the consequences of their actions? That's not true. I remember hurting other kids in elementary school, and I KNEW I was hurting them. I did because I wanted them to hurt, to get back at them for hurting me. Hardly innocent.

Ender certainly wasn't innocent, after the fight with Stilson. He knew he hurt Stilson badly, and that's what he intended.

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Postby neo-dragon » Fri Oct 27, 2006 9:46 pm

I didn't think that his fights with Stilson and Bonzo were the issue here. Aren't we just talking about what he did to the Bugger? As far as that goes, he truly didn't know that he was killing them the way that he knew and intended to harm the boys he killed. You can't use the fact that someone committed other crimes to convict him of the crime currently in question.

As for children being considered "innocent", I think you're right that kids get off too easy for the most part when they commit acts of violence. But from a scientific standpoint, research indicates that the brain really hasn't fully developed the ability to correctly weigh actions and consequences until after adolescence. Hence, why teenagers do such very stupid things, while most 30 year olds can act responsibly, hold down a decent job, and raise a family. It's not just because of the extra life experience. It takes about 20 years for the human brain to reach full maturity. Kids may be able to understand consequences intellectually (ie. if I hit Johnny, he will feel pain, and making people feel pain is wrong because no one likes it), but they are often lacking something that allows them to consistently apply this reasoning to the real world. What you're saying, Soara, kind of supports this notion:

I remember hurting other kids in elementary school, and I KNEW I was hurting them. I did because I wanted them to hurt, to get back at them for hurting me. Hardly innocent.


Most kids just act on emotion because the behaviour part of their brain is still developing. Most adults can resist the urge to hurt others just for pay back.

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Postby eriador » Sat Oct 28, 2006 9:15 am

Besides, Ender was playing the "game" for completely different reasons. However, what those reasons are is the key to this question. Personally, I think he did it because all the adults expected him to. That would make them responsible and him their tool.

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Postby puppets » Fri Nov 17, 2006 10:59 pm

you all seem to forget, ender knew that one day he was going to kill the buggers. he was preparing himself for that whole moment in battle school, with all the vids and what not. i agree he is innocent to a degree, but he was preparing for it the whole time. he just didnt realize when he was doing it. plus can you really blame those who ran battle school? they were scared, especially after the buggers had attacked earth, thinking they were just letting us know we were here. so technically the blame lies in part with the buggers, the people runnign battle school, ender himself, and to an extent, bean. bean, my favorite character, knew what he was doing, what they were all doing, and he kept quiet. all in all, just as they are equally innocent, mainly due to ignorance, they all share an equal ammount of guilt as well.
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Postby anonshadow » Sat Nov 18, 2006 7:22 am

See, here's me thinking that if he's been conditioned to cope with it since he was four or five, that makes him less culpable, not more.



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Postby wigginboy » Sun Nov 19, 2006 2:33 am

Ender did what he thought was right to win a game that he did not want to play anymore. What's more, he thought he cheated on the game and that he was going to be rebuked, or sent home. But the adults who trained him and knew what he was knew that the game was real and that Ender's actions were killing both men and buggers. They knew this and chose not to step in in this final battle. There is an instance in ES when Bean tells the men on one of his ships to set the Little Doctor off in their ship. The officers and Mazer Rackham surely knew this, and yet they made no move to stop him or to try to reverse the action. The adults' actions can be attributed to the wartime crisis, as well as the crisis threatening humaninty. They all thought it was right at the time to destroy the formics completely. To obliterate once and for all the threat that impinged on their only homeworld. If buggers or something like them came today and were intent on taking over our world in a violent manner, because they didnt understand us, we would understand them the exact same and act with as much force as we as humanity could muster. If we succeeded in killing them, then we would all be safe and no one would really care except that they were alive. Now, when Ender found out what he had done, he had reason to feel guilty, because he was cheating. He wanted to do the one thing he was told not to do in order for them to let him go home. He could not have known and was likely never told that cheating, to him, was exactly what they wanted him to do. So of course Ender felt guilty. He thought he was getting out of a game that he was tired of, but he was really ending a war he was blindly part of. And the adults were only doing what they had to to save humanity.

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Postby puppets » Sun Nov 19, 2006 7:43 am

He is innocent in the sense he didn't know he was going to kill so many at once and he didn't know when he was killing them, but watching the vids throughout battle school so he can beat them better was what he did. He was expecting a fight, different as it may have been for him, and he was planning to beat the enemy sooner or later.

As I said, he doesnt deserve full blame, but his blame is in sense no more or less than that of anyone else. Sure the adults are blamed, but why? Because they were scared. Ender is blamed, because he was preparing himself to get into their mind and kill them throughout battle school, bean is to blame because he knew and did not tell, buggers are blame because they attacked earth innocently not knowing any better.

If the buggers are innocent, so are the adults, because fear in itself is ignorance. IF the adults are guilty then so arre ender and bean, for preparing themselves, watching vids, and knowing they would oneday have to fight the buggers.
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Postby 3nder » Wed Dec 05, 2007 5:08 pm

he was only a kid, you could only expect him to act out the peter in him and as he said he was tired of fighting and so he did what at the time he thought was what he was supposed to do. I would have done the same thing if i diddn't know that there was a chance for peace but because of the videos and all the crap that battle school belted into him everyone thought that all they could do about the problem was to kill them all.
and yet i listen to death metal while typing this

kinda ironic......
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Postby PhanaticEnder.Reader » Sat Dec 08, 2007 12:47 am

everyone is saying about how he was only a kid etc etc, but if you think about it, even though ender was 11 he was still a lot smarter than a huge amount of the adults, so i dont think he shouldnt be held responsible based solely on his age.

but being intelectually brilliant only goes so far, even when your a genius when your 11, so yeah...

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Postby KennEnder » Sat Dec 08, 2007 1:43 am

Judgment (and hence responsibility) is at most only half intellectual, the other half being emotional. And at 11, even a genius has a lot of development left in both... otherwise we wouldn't have age requirements, we'd have IQ requirements or knowledge requirements instead. (Of course, age requirements are pretty ridiculous too; who in their right mind thinks people develop so uniformly for so long? There are glaring differences in development even by very young ages!)
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re: How responsible is Ender?

Postby pamelasue » Sun Apr 27, 2008 11:59 am

Ender was conditioned to do what he did, almost since the day he was born. One only has to look around the world right now to see how such a narrow, radical upbringing can affect a person; from suicide bombers in the Middle East and even to the fundamentalist Mormons in Texas. The life he had was the only life he knew. Sure, he had the ability to make choices, but he really wasn’t given much option, with the possible exception of his decision to leave his home and go with Colonel Graff. And remember, he was very young then, and was desperate to get away from Peter and the situation at school. His decision could be compared to a young child’s decision to run away from home. There’s not a lot of foresight, rather an impulsive act. In many ways, Ender was just trying to survive, which was the lesson that they wanted him to learn. As far as the last battle, I think that if Ender knew that it was real, he would not have fought. The I.F knew it and that’s why they had to trick him into fighting it. Therefore, he can not be held responsible.

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Postby beanpetrapeterlove703 » Sun Apr 27, 2008 6:58 pm

yeah, well i think he was responsible.

but at the time; all he knew was that the buggers had already killed thousands of humans, and that they were a threat to human kind. He can't be blamed for things he didn't, and couldn't, know.

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Postby starlooker » Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:33 pm

On the topic of justification of actions due to Ender's childhood:

To begin with, I agree with Soara in that childhood "innocence" can be overromanticized as believing that children are unaware when they are not. Kids can be right little beasts, cruel and crueler than adults because they have not yet worked out how to be civilized.

(Interesting aside, did you know that children are more likely than adults are, when in groups, to help a stranger? Until the age of nine. Because that's when we begin to notice social censure, be afraid of it, and use it to our advantage. And a large part of reason for bystander effects is social inhibition.)

It isn't so much childhood innocence that absolves children of crimes. Children are different, and therefore do not hold the same responsibility. They are not just tabula rasas, who differ from adults only in levels of experience. A child's brain, patterns of thinking, capacity for moral or abstract reflection, and ability to process emotions are all qualitatively different than adults. Yes, some children mature faster in these arenas than others, and though this is somewhat related to intelligence, not completely so. However, it is impossible to advance to adulthood without going through the childhood stages to some degree. A supergenius child is NOT an adult in personality and mental life, no matter how advanced. And, therefore, a child does not hold the same level of responsibility. Including for such things as the deaths of Stilson and Bonzo. Children's capacity to understand real outcomes, things like permanency of death, etc. is limited in a very real way.

This is also why I don't buy the idea of Ender no longer being a "child" after finding out. It was a catalytic experience, it was a formative and foundational experience, and he was a child going through that experience. I understand what's meant by that idea, but it isn't reality. A child who experiences trauma is still a child, and will deal with the trauma in ways available to a child. I know most people have some symbolic event separating the child from the adult, but some of that is illusory. It's a separating of life into meaningful stages, and sometimes that coincides with development into adults. Sometimes not.

Part of the problem with the book is that the children are written too much like little adults. This gets much worse in the Bean series.

Personally, I believe that the heart of evil lies in the abuse and exploitative use of power. Of which I, personally, find Col. Graff and the others who manipulated the impressions of the Battle Schoolers guilty. I think there was abuse of power. Children do not have the same degree of power as adults, and what power Ender did have in the situation, I do not think he abused. This absolves him from much guilt, in my eyes.

Even if he did understand at a subconscious level what was happening, which I am very far from allowing, there is a huge difference from conscious and unconscious understanding. By definition, the sub/unconscious are uncontrollable. It's not like he was consciously surpressing anything -- the structure of his mind wouldn't allow him to see it at a conscious level, which absolves him of responsibility for that sort of knowledge.

I admire what Ender did when he realized the material reality of his actions, though. He behaved not as a callous person, or power hungry person. He chose to take responsibility -- though, I think it wasn't really his -- and dedicated his life to developing compassion and sympathy to balance his empathy.

(Another definition of evil I have is the person who uses their ability to understand another person's pain only as a way of causing more pain, rather than using empathy in concert with compassion. I've been thinking about evil a lot, lately.)
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Re: How responsible is Ender?

Postby tofuriku » Sun Jan 17, 2016 7:42 pm

Urgh this just makes me so mad. I think that Ender is obviously not responsible at all and seeing how other people push the blame onto him as ''THE WORST PERSON IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND??'' is so urghhhh. :bash:

I mean-
1. it was the adults who were asking him to do this. Who made this decision to kill the buggers. Ender was just the weapon. Why aren't they arrested or ostracized??
2. Anyone would have done the same thing in his shoes if they were under pressure from the battle school. Heck, I bet most of the people berating Ender for killing the buggers would have done exactly the same thing if they were in his shoes.
3. He didn't know that the buggers weren't attacking Earth, even if he was subconsciously aware that it wasn't a game- for all he knew, there could have been a third invasion.
4. What about Petra and Bean and the rest? They killed buggers too, and they also gave directions to kill buggers. Why aren't they held responsible? They made the choice to obey Ender.
5. What about those thousands of soldiers who went off to war to kill buggers? They aren't held responsible even though they are the ones who agreed to kill the buggers proactively and the ones who actually pulled the trigger. Where is their share in the blame?

It just makes me so mad to see how the rest of humanity tries to absolve their share of the blame by pushing it onto Ender and how they would have done exactly the same thing in his shoes :bash: :bash: :bash: :bash: :bash:
Stars love clear sky- they shine ^^


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