What We Can Learn From Dumbledore's Army

by Charlotte Ahlin

Let's be real: Harry Potter taught us so much, growing up. We learned how to believe in ourselves. How to find magic in our friendships. How to organize a secret youth resistance force, engage in civil disobedience, and take down a fascist regime from within. J.K. Rowling planted the seeds of political resistance in our squishy child minds many years ago, but just in case you need a reminder, here are some of the very real lessons we can learn from Dumbledore's Army.

As Trump's administration continues to dehumanize minorities, fill our heads with alternative facts, and de-fund things important to Americans, many people are turning to literature for inspiration. It's no coincidence that 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale are flying off the shelves these days. And before you dismiss Harry and friends as child wizards in a fantasy story, let's all remember that the Harry Potter series consciously parallels Nazi Germany. Rowling's not exactly subtle about her race allegories with Muggle-borns and centaurs and half-giants, either. Those books were full of social commentary. And let's be real: the Dursleys definitely voted for Brexit.

Of course, looking to Dumbledore's Army is just the beginning. But literature can fuel our real-world political action, so here's what the D.A. can teach us:


Don’t Panic, Organize

It's normal to feel a soul-crushing sense of despair and panic when Voldemort is back in town but the government won't believe you (or when a tyrannical baby-man becomes president of your country). But endless panic isn't helpful. Hermione understood that, and funneled her rage into organizing Dumbledore's Army, recruiting members, and convincing a hormonal Harry to help out. So don't despair. Organize. Donate, volunteer, call your reps, join a group, create your own group, or find some other way to contribute beyond general hand wringing.


Always Question Authority

When Dolores Umbridge was confirmed as Education Secretary — sorry, I mean named High Inquisitor of Hogwarts, the students of Dumbledore's Army understood what was really going on. Umbridge wasn't interested in educating them. She was interested in feeding them propaganda and curtailing their freedoms through executive orders — sorry, I mean educational decrees. Don't put blind faith in authority figures. The Umbridges of the world don't deserve respect just because they have a fancy job title.


Arm Yourself With Knowledge

By Deathly Hallows, the remaining members of Dumbledore's Army have become straight up freedom fighters under a totalitarian regime. But back in book five, Dumbledore's Army was started as a secret class to learn Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry and Hermione (let's be real, mostly Hermione) understood that knowledge is a powerful tool — especially when the powers that be are trying to keep you in the dark. If the system isn't going to prepare you for what's out there, prepare yourself.


Fight Against Fake News

Remember when Harry Potter dealt with propaganda and fake news, and it all seemed like fiction and didn't reflect the way our actual government behaved? Remember that? Look, I'm not advocating for trapping any reporters in a jar like Hermione did to Rita Skeeter, but I think we should all follow Dumbledore's Army's example when it comes to fact checking everything we read. Don't stay silent when the Ministry of Magic tells you that Cedric's death was a "tragic accident."


Take Care Of Yourself And Others

Even with Dumbledore's Army, Quidditch, school work, and Umbridge's horrifying detentions, Harry still found time to awkwardly make out with a weeping Cho Chang. Ron still cracked a few jokes. Hermione did lots of homework, which was her way of relaxing, I guess. Even when things seem dire, remember to take care of yourself. Sleep, eat, and talk to friends. You can't fight Death Eaters on an empty stomach.


Keep Your Communication Secure

Remember that one time that Umbridge attacked Hedwig so she could read Harry's mail? Dumbledore's Army operated in secret, using those magic fake coins to communicate. I'm not saying that you necessarily have to hold secret meetings in an untraceable room (unless you have access to one), but it's probably a good idea to keep your privacy settings updated.


Stand Up For Your Principles

The members of Dumbledore's Army stand up for their beliefs, and refuse to be bullied into submission (except for Marietta, who earned herself a permanent face full of zits). They don't stand for Umbridge's lies or bigotry. Harry doesn't back down after Umbridge makes him carve words into his own flesh. Some members, like Cho, are even going against their parents' wishes to be a part of the D.A. We can't all punch Malfoy in the face everyday, but we can all stand up for what we believe in, even if it means some tough conversations with friends and family.


Everyone Can Play A Part

Look, not everyone is going to be Harry (heck, even Harry doesn't want to be Harry half to time). But Neville, Luna, Ron, Ginny, Hannah Abbott — every member of Dumbledore's Army contributed in some way. Even Dobby made a huge difference. Even Peeves helped take down Umbridge, though he wasn't a formal member. Don't count yourself out just because you have a different set of skills than someone else. Your efforts still have value.


Learn From The Past

There's a reason it's called "Dumbledore's" Army. Dumbly might not be a perfect man, but he's not a bad example to follow, either. And the D.A. borrows more than a little inspiration from the Marauders and the Order of the Phoenix. Look to leaders and activists you admire, and read up on all the history you can get your hands on, because Dumbledore's Army is not the first organization of its kind.


There Is Power In Numbers

The individual members of Dumbledore's Army have their differences. Zacharias is kind of the worst. But they unite under a common cause, because there is power in numbers. There is power in unity. That's the core message of Dumbledore's Army: if enough of us can band together against injustice, then we have a chance of defeating it.