For true fans, I don’t have to tell you what happens tonight. It’s been years. We’ve waited. Even patiently at times. For some of us, we never thought this day would come. A prequel to the Harry Potter series is coming out in theaters today.
Yes, tonight is the debut of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a film following the adventures of Newt Scamander, author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a textbook on magical creatures. For this story, we are taken into New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads Scamander’s book while attending Hogwarts. In this post-election political climate, I think Harry Potter can offer us more than just an escape from reality. I believe Harry Potter can give us some critical insights in light of a Trump Presidency.
1. Dumbledore’s Army is community organizing in action.
When faced with a threat to justice, safety, and their very futures, Hermione didn’t stand idle. She assessed how she could impact the situation and took action in her community. For her, that meant getting Harry to teach a covert Defense Against the Dark Arts class to prepare their friends for the real dangers lucking outside the walls of Hogwarts.
Dumbledore’s Army is indeed community organizing in action. Hermione organized her community – mostly Gryffindor’s – to address the problem she saw and build skills and power necessary to stop Voldemort. We must do the same. (Crucial note: we in the muggle world are building a non-violent movement for justice to protect our families, our friends, and our futures. We are not seeking to destroy our opposition. Remember that.)
2. It’s not just “bad guys” who are racist
Ron Weasley is a nice guy. His goofy, awkward, and often dopey demeanor charms even the most judgmental of Harry Potter fans. However, at times Ron is the worst. He regularly insists house elves like being ordered around and actually enjoy their slave status, he recoils in fear and disgust when he finds out that Professor Lupin is a werewolf (“Don’t touch me!”), and blames goblins themselves for being denied the right to carry wands. All of this is exaggerated by the fact that Ron grew up in a family of purebloods, albeit one of the most kind and accepting pure blood family in the wizarding world.
Ron Weasley’s character is racist, and that is actually great. Not great that he looks down on other races, but great because his character shows that racism isn’t only inside the Death Eaters and Malfoys of the world, but inside even the best of us. And more importantly, Ron’s evolution shows that racism can be unlearned. In the end, he helps Harry dig a grave for Dobby after the house elf is killed by Belatrix Lastrange and he lets Lupin bandage his wounded leg in the final battle. Although his relationship with goblins doesn’t improve in the end, Ron’s character illustrates how we are all complicit in an unjust system whether we like it or not, and that racism can be unlearned with hard work and supportive friends with an eye for justice and equality. (Thanks Hermione.)
3. Happiness can incite courage in the face of fear.
The Patronus Charm is one of the most famous and powerful defensive spells in the books, most often used to repel Dementors. The darkest and most foul creatures in the magical world, Dementors drain peace, hope, and happiness from the air, sending any humans around them into a state of depression and immobility at best, and removing their souls at worst. The Patronus charm conjures a magical guardian, a “projection of all your most positive feelings,” which at best attacks and dispels Dementors.
The “magic” of a Patronus is that it represents that which is invisible, but necessarily part of one’s personality. A “ridiculously advanced” piece of magic Professor Lupin tells us, successful Patronus charms evoke a semi-tangible positive energy force that protects against the darkest of evils. There is no other defense against creatures like Dementors.
In times of fear and uncertainty when he needed to repel Dementors, Harry thought of his family and friends. He imagined himself sitting with his parents just talking, a memory inspired by his time in front of the Mirror of Erised. He thought of his friends around him in the midst of battle. Harry thought of love when he needed to be courageous in the face of fear and uncertainty.
4. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
You know that moment in the third book when Harry is dying and his soul floats out of his body in the form of a silver bubble and his wand is just outside his reach? All hope is nearly lost. Then suddenly, Harry sees a figure raise his wand and send a silver stag galloping across the silvery lake, chasing the thousands of dementors into the darkness. How did you feel when Harry realized it was actually himself who cast the spell? I felt powerful.
We are in a similar place right now with a Trump Presidency. No superheroes will save us from the negative consequences of a Trump Administration. If you want to protect people from being deported and families from being torn apart, then you need to act. If you want to ensure the safety of Muslims, people of color, and LGBTQ folk, then you need to act. If you want to protect our water, our air, and our climate for your family and for future generations, then you need to act. Now is the time.
5. Love always triumphs over hate.
How is it that Harry Potter fans are simply more loving and accepting than nonfans? Studies have consistently shown Harry Potter fans to be more open to diversity, more politically tolerant and active, and less supportive of authoritarian forces than nonfans. Part of this may be due to how successfully we are “transported” into the emotion of the story, in this case so well many in our entire generation believe we are still there.
Just look at Snape, one of the nastiest, greasiest, and yet redeeming characters of the series. After he is killed by Voldemort, Snape gives his memory, a pool of silver wisps, to Harry. Soon Harry dives into the pensive with the memories, witnessing for the first time how Snape loved his mother Lily. Here Harry finally understands why Snape played both sides, and how his love for Lily eventually cost him his life. Despite his hatred of Harry (which is painfully immense), his love for Lily wins. Let us not forget this these next four years.