2017 is shaping up to be a crazy year. Every week seems to bring some new political or humanitarian catastrophe, and everyone is just struggling to get through. Whenever things are hard or strange, I turn to my favorite literary comfort read: Harry Potter. The Harry Potter series is more than just a fun read. At its heart, the series has a lot to say about social justice, standing up for what's right, and how to get through dark times.
Which of course hasn't escaped the notice of its readers, as there are thousands of comparisons already being made between the series and current life, like the similarities between the characters of Harry Potter and the people in the Trump administration. As readers, we can use Harry Potter as a lens to understand the problems that we're experiencing today and how to face them. After all, after spending years reading about the struggle of the wizarding world, it feels like we've seen some of this before, doesn't it?
Harry Potter has taught us so much about how to be strong, have hope, and fight for good. So, as we power our way through 2017 and all that it has in store for us, here are 10 lessons from Harry Potter to guide us through this strange time.
1We have the power to make choices, and our choices are important.
Harry Potter is all about choice. From the moment that Harry says "Not Slytherin" when he's under the Sorting Hat to the countless times in which he chooses to help somebody in need. There are two quotes from Dumbledore that put it best:
1. "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
2. "Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right."
We all have the power to make the choice to do what is right, and in 2017 we need to continually make that choice.
2Everyone deserves respect and equal rights.
A lot of the injustice in the real world can be seen reflected in the wizarding world. We see the way that magical creatures and "half-breeds" (such as Lupin and Hagrid) are discriminated against. We see the horrific acts that Voldemort and the Death Eaters commit against Muggles and Muggle-borns. We see the ways in which the Weasleys are looked down upon because of their economic status. Time and time again, the series shows us the damage that a discriminatory system can do, the positive impact that kindness can have, and how important it is to treat people with dignity and respect.
3Even in dark times, we can find happiness and make others smile.
Another golden Dumbledore quote: "Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light." Even when everything seems to be crumbling around us, we can still find ways to uplift each other and bring joy to each other. We see this best put into practice by the efforts of the Weasley twins and Lee Jordan, and how they use Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and their radio show, Potterwatch, to bring light into other people's lives.
4"Good" and "evil" are not black and white.
In Order of the Phoenix, Sirius tells Harry, "Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on." This coin has two sides. On one hand, it means that people's hearts and minds are complex, and that not every person who makes a harmful decision is acting out of pure hatred. On the other hand, it also means that even people with the best intentions must be mindful of their actions; there is more than one way to cause harm.
5In Harry Potter, love literally trumps hate.
The protection that Lily gives Harry is done through the ancient magic of love, and it means that Voldemort is unable to touch Harry. This is a great visual representation for how the decision to show love for somebody has immense power over hatred and bigotry.
6We should use our privilege to stand up for those who do not have the same power.
Being a good ally is vitally important, both in the world of Harry Potter and in today's world. One of the most visible moments of ally-ship in the series is when Hermione forms S.P.E.W. to help free the house elves.
We also see how important it is to not just be an ally, but be a good ally, and listen to the voices of the people that you are trying to help. For instance, when Hermione hides hats all over the Gryffindor common room. While her intentions are good, she fails to listen to what the elves themselves want, and ultimately causes them a great deal of strife.
7Use the power you have.
We also constantly see the ways in which Dobby, even in a very disenfranchised position, uses the power that he has to do what he believes is right. He uses his special magic to (attempt to) help Harry survive when the Chamber of Secrets is opened, despite the wishes of his masters. In Goblet of Fire, he uses his access to the castle to help Harry through the second task, similar to when in the Order of the Phoenix, he helps Harry find the Room of Requirement. No matter what your position is, we all have ways in which we can make an impact, large or small, to help make the world a better place.
Dobby's not the only one, either. For instance, during Umbridge's reign of terror, we see the professors engaging in small acts of resistance, like Professor Flitwick claiming that he doesn't know how to remove the Weasley twins' swamp or McGonagall helping Peeves unscrew a chandelier. And of course, we see how these acts of resistance add up to undermine Umbridge's power and block her from enacting her harmful agenda. It does make a difference.
8Be critical of your news sources.
How many times in Harry Potter do we see the Daily Prophet print something that is just completely wrong? Not to mention, all the damage that people like Rita Skeeter and Umbridge do on purpose. In this era of "fake news" we have to be critical of every piece of media we take in.
9Your friends have got your back.
It seems totally cliche to be like "Friendship is important!" It is, though, and Harry Potter shows us the many ways in which having supportive friends can keep you going in even the toughest of times. The Golden Trio is the epitome of "Stronger Together" — from their fight against the cave troll through the final moments of the Battle of Hogwarts. Yet, it's not just in the epic moments that we see how the trio's friendship makes them stronger. We see them make each other laugh, give each other advice, stand up for each other, fight and make up with each other, and continually fill each other's lives with joy.
10We can overcome fear.
The Patronus is such a powerful symbol for being able to stand up to our fear. The dementors illustrate how fear can feed on itself, but with the Patronus, we see that we do have the tools to break through the pattern.