Donald Trump's presidency is already forcing people to draw comparisons to the villain of Harry Potter, Voldemort. After only a few days in office, he has signed a series of discriminatory executive orders and made threats against the freedoms of speech and press. Amidst this injustice and censorship, the moderators of r/Harry Potter have now banned all posts about current politics:
Yes, Harry Potter is about love, but it's also about social justice. Harry Potter is about celebrating diversity. It's about standing up for the rights of marginalized groups, fighting against hatred even when it seems impossible, and using power to help those in need. This is apparent in Harry's main battle against Voldemort, in Hermione's efforts in S.P.E.W., in the exposed prejudices against Remus Lupin and Hagrid, and in the countless instances, large and small, in which Harry, Hermione, and Ron choose to stand up for what they believe, despite all odds.
In an episode of the podcast Imaginary Worlds titled "Dumbledore's Army," host Eric Molinsky discusses J.K. Rowling's work with Amnesty International and how it impacted the creation of Harry Potter. Social activism is weaved into the very fabric of Harry Potter. Molinsky calls particular attention to the efforts of The Harry Potter Alliance, and how Rowling's novels have inspired them to create an activist movement. "This makes sense to me, because stories about magic are often about change, transformation, and not accepting the world as it appears," Molinsky says.
And indeed, many of the lessons of Harry Potter about love are framed in the context of social justice. Love is not passive. Lily's love for Harry only has the power that it does because she's willing to put her life in between him and the evil that wishes to harm him.
The popular slogan "Love Trumps Hate" is reminiscent of what Harry Potter teaches us. The argument isn't that you should turn away from the hatred that is going on in the world. Rather, you should look hatred in the eye and choose kindness instead. But being kind isn't a passive activity. Being kind means standing up for people who need help, for those who are marginalized. Being kind mean standing up and saying, "I care about what is happening to you, and I want to do something about it."
Love is not passive. Lily's love for Harry only has the power that it does because she's willing to put herself in between him and the evil that wishes to harm him.
Maybe the r/Harry Potter moderators are privileged enough to think that President Donald Trump's policies aren't going to affect them or their community, or maybe they somehow believe it is possible to carve out a corner of the internet free from the events of the world. But if there's one lesson to be learned from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it's that turning away from the darker events of the world will not make them go away. It will only give them more power.
In the books, Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge makes the decision to ignore the return of Voldemort. Fudge refuses to acknowledge that Voldemort has returned, because he doesn't want to exude the effort to fight back. Fudge's life and political career are much safer if he's not involved in a war. It is obvious that this is a terrible plan, because Fudge's unwillingness to acknowledge Voldemort makes the world all the more vulnerable to him.
But if there's one lesson to be learned from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it's that turning away from the darker events of the world will not make them go away. It will only give them more power.
While the moderators aren't actively disagreeing with the anger in response to Trump, this ban is still harmful. It's censorship in a time when everyone needs to be talking about what's going on. It's impeding on members of the Harry Potter community's ability to come together and discuss these problems through the lens of something they love and understand. It suggests that the fears of Harry Potter fans who have been targeted by Trump's racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, and intolerance are not worthwhile. (Which is particularly awful, because the Harry Potter community is wonderfully diverse.)
Simply put, it's incredibly irresponsible.
Many fans have turned to Harry Potter as a way to cope with and understand the election of President Trump. On Nov. 9, I picked up my copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in hopes that it could help me process my fear and hopelessness. Before and after the election, readers have attempted to make sense of the world through Harry Potter. At the Women's March, protesters carried signs inspired by Harry Potter.
Harry Potter is political. Even J.K. Rowling thinks so.
The author has been enormously vocal about politics throughout this election. She tweets her opposition to Trump every chance she gets, and she often uses Harry Potter as an allegory for current events. It only makes sense that her fans would want to do the same thing.
How horrible. Voldemort was nowhere near as bad. https://t.co/hFO0XmOpPH— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 8, 2015
One of my favorite quotes from Harry Potter is spoken by Headmaster Dumbledore, in his eulogy for Cedric Diggory. "Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right," he says.
Right now, we are standing where Dumbledore stood. We are looking upon a future that will be dark and difficult. Now more than ever we need — as Mad-Eye Moody would say — constant vigilance. We need to encourage free expression and community. We need to make sure that even the seemingly small parts of our lives are doing service towards justice.
I would love to see r/Harry Potter and the Harry Potter community become a rallying point for activism and social justice in the face of our political climate. All the things we learned from Harry Potter are more important than ever. It's time to band together, get angry, and use the power that we have to make a difference. Ask yourself: What would Dumbledore's Army do?