I woke up this morning in an America that felt very different than the one that I went to sleep in. Intellectually I know that’s not true — all the election results did was uncover the realities of this country that I have, perhaps, not wanted to acknowledge — but when I went to bed I still had hope, and upon waking, I felt as though that hope had been a foolish thing to cling to.
Some hours have passed since that initial and disappointing awakening, however, and I’m realizing that I — and we — will be okay if we just remember the lessons we learned from Harry Potter. Yes, that’s right. The Boy Who Lived has all of the tools we need to be able to move forward into a better world. If you are also struggling this morning, let’s just review the important lessons we learned from Potter and Company.
- Life Takes Courage
- Take on the Trolls
- Stand Up for Each Other
- Never Underestimate the Power of One Person Saying No
- Ask for Help
- Love is the Most Important Thing
- We’re All in this Together
Life Takes Courage
When we meet Harry Potter, he is a wee slip of a boy tucked into a cupboard under some stairs. His family is not kind to him. He’s neglected. And then — quite suddenly — he discovers that the world is not what he thought, and there is an entirely new reality presented to him, one in which he will be immersed with little to no preparation.
Does he dive back into his cupboard? Does he decline his acceptance to Hogwarts and tell Hagrid to leave him alone? He does not. He takes a breath and leaps forward into a world that he is not sure that he understands. He embraces the possibility of what is next.
Let us not forget that in this moment, things might seem bleak. You might feel as though you are stuck in a cupboard, sharing space with people who don’t like you very much, facing a future that, when imagined, seems uncertain and leaning toward horrible. But like Harry, we need to embrace the notion that even that uncertain future contains possibility. It’s going to require courage. It’s not going to be easy. But it’s going to give us all the chance to become something better, I think, just as Hogwarts gave Harry the opportunity to become more than he ever dreamed he would be. When you embrace your courage, you can become a hero.
Take on the Trolls
When Ron and Harry realize that Hermione — someone they are not, at that point, particularly close to — is trapped in the bathroom with a troll, they realize that there is only one real course of action for them: fight back. Leaving her there alone with a troll is not an option for them.
The trolls we encounter in life are not, usually, the large club wielding sort. The modern troll prefers words: antagonism and racist, sexist, bigoted language. When we see people — even people we are not friends with — being menaced by trolls, we should come to their aid. Ron and Harry risked attracting the troll’s attention to help Hermione because they knew it was the right thing to do. We need to make sure that we do the same. We can fight the trolls together.
Stand Up for Each Other
Harry is frequently in danger, but when he is, his friends stand with him. They are his allies. They face Snape with him, they deal with Draco, and they help him find Horcruxes. When the push comes to the shove, Harry’s friends are there helping to keep him safe.
Right now, in order to move forward, I feel as though it’s important that we find a way to mark ourselves as allies for people who are afraid, who have danger lurking near them for no reason other than gender, sexuality, religion, color of their skin. I personally am afraid. But I know that I have allies, and I know it’s also important that I BE an ally. We need to bond together, all of us, and find a way to fight back against the forces that would isolate and separate us. I don’t know precisely what that will look like, but I know what it will feel like: it will feel like strength and kindness as we keep a path lit for each other in the dark.
Never Underestimate the Power of One Person Saying No
Full disclosure: Neville Longbottom is one of my favorite characters in Harry Potter; he is brave in spite of himself and does the difficult things when they are not the easiest things. Early in the books, he stands up to Ron, Hermione, and Harry even when he doesn’t want to, because he knows that what they are doing is against the rules. In the final book, he stands up to Voldemort — singled out by He Who Shall Not Be Named and offered the chance to join him, he refuses and is, as a result, able to destroy the Horcrux Nagini.
Some of us are born people pleasers — we don’t like confrontation, we don’t like to make people angry, we don’t like people to be unhappy with us. It’s easier to go with the flow. Easy, however, is not often the same as right. It’s easy to turn away from someone who is being threatened on the street and tell yourself not to get involved, but it’s not RIGHT. Neville is the Harry Potter equivalent of “See Something, Say Something” — and if what you see is something that is not okay, what you say is NO. No, this will not happen in my presence. NO, this is not something I can allow to happen.
On a broader political scale, No can also mean writing letters, joining protests, and becoming more politically active. We can’t allow things that we know are wrong to happen while we stand idly by. It’s not okay, and it’s what got us into this mess in the first place. Saying NO when you witness something that is wrong is the first step in making things right. Find your voice and the courage to use it.
Ask For Help
Dumbledore was the greatest wizard in the world, and even he needed assistance when it came to defeating Voldemort’s plans. He asked Snape for help so that they could save Malfoy and keep him from having to assassinate Dumbledore; he asked for Harry’s assistance so that he could recover a memory concerning the Horcruxes, and Harry also helped him to recover what they believed to be a Horcrux. Dumbledore, the greatest wizard of all time, knew when he needed aid.
I feel as though we are all going to need aid in the coming days. We will need each other — to lift each other up, to keep each other safe, to bring each other hope. We will need to work together to repair what’s broken. We will need to work on plans to keep the world a brighter place. We cannot do any of that without asking. If Dumbledore could ask, then I’m pretty sure we can to; he couldn’t do it all by himself, and neither can we.
Love is the Most Important Thing
Dumbledore always told Harry that Voldemort’s fatal flaw was that he didn’t understand the power of love. Voldemort did not understand what it meant to act out of love. He acted out of greed, anger, a hunger for power, and hatred, but he never acted out of love. He was defeated because Harry DID understand the power of love, and was willing to put other people before himself.
We live in a world that needs more love and less fear. If there’s something that I learned from Harry Potter, it’s that we all benefit when we come from a place of love. We can do bigger, better, more amazing things when we love our fellow humans than we can when we hate or fear them. Underneath all skin, all gender identities, all sexualities, all religious philosophies, there are human hearts that beat and human brains that think. Even if you don’t love someone’s ideas, you can love their humanity — and if you start from love, anything is possible. Middle ground is possible. Commonality is possible.
Love is always possible, and it is the most important thing.
We’re All in This Together
Defeating He Who Shall Not Be Named took planning. It took organization. It took The Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore’s Army. It took people getting together, talking, and strategizing about where their strengths should be directed, and how best to get their message and effort across.
If we want to move forward, we need to get together. We need to figure out how to keep people safe, how to make sure that all people in this country feel included. We need to figure out strategies for addressing wrongs and how to promote what’s right. And, as I said before, we need to make sure that we do it from a place of love. Of love for each other, for community, for this country. And we need to do it soon.
I learned all this from Harry Potter, and now I have to apply it.
Never underestimate the power of reading.