By: Zachary Bynum
This summer Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hit the shelves in book stores all over the world, and the response was as expected. Millions of people gathered to buy it as soon as it was released. I was not one of those people surprisingly. It came out at a time where I was unable to get to a book store of any kind, but I still felt the excitement. Anyone who knows me knows that I still have an undying devotion to Harry Potter, and as I get older my reasoning changes. At first, I used to love it because it was the coolest story I had ever read. By the time I was 16, it was because it was the only book series to be successfully recreated on the movie screen to me. Now, it’s because Harry Potter was one of the first books I ever read that made me look at society and question.
Here is a PDF that explains the social and political agenda of Harry Potter. I often times read it, just as a way to tell myself that even at a young age, I must have been social-justice minded.
To me, it’s funny how these things make you see the world. I read the final Harry Potter book in the fifth grade, and around that time I was also learning a more in-depth explanation of WWII and what the Holocaust was. The parallels were almost uncomfortable to acknowledge. My 11 year old brain was excited to read about the next excursion Harry and his companions were embarking on, while also hearing about the horrors of the implementation and execution of the Holocaust. I mean there have been plenty scholarly analysis of Harry Potter and its many references to history. Lord Voldemort is like how we see Hitler to this day, a complex person who truly embodies what is considered pure evil. Lord Voldemort wanted to eradicate all non-Pure blooded wizards and witches despite his mixed-blood lineage. Much like the way Hitler committed genocide against Jewish people despite his own Jewish lineag. I had heard about the Holocaust prior to fifth grade, but I never truly understood the true weight of it until that year, and Harry’s tale helped me see that. I mean reading about the Holocaust and then reading about characters who were oppressed and in some cases physically and fatally harmed because of their magical status made it real for me. The feelings were there in the text, and the facts were there in the textbook. JK Rowling wasn’t writing just to tell a story, she was writing to show us what can happen in society if you ignore the reality of hatred, bigotry, and power. She was showing us that the murder of 6 million people should not be looked at as just the decimation of people, but the elimination of 6 million stories that all deserved to be told. She wanted to show us that although you may be young and society may be an unfamiliar concept to you, it is important that you are not sheltered from it. You are a part of it, so you have to gauge it.
Later, it felt like there was a realization every time I revisited the beloved series. I reread the first three books again, and JK Rowling announced that Dumbledore is actually gay. The next year, I read the Order of the Phoenix and found interest in the politics behind the Ministry of Magic. A year later, I’m reading about Hermione’s feministic planning and design. I was seeing things like gender issues told through the lens of Hermione’s role in the story, racial issues through Voldemort and his systemic hatred of anything associated with Muggles, and even class issues like the way the Weasley’s were treated by members of the Magical society. I mean the discoveries and realizations were endless. I was seeing all these different aspects of human experience in a way that took nothing but reading a book.
I was also very interested in music throughout my grade school education. I played percussion in middle school, and saxophone when I was in high school. Music was something that came naturally to me, and often times it did not take much practice for me to expand my musical abilities. I think the most I practiced was before big auditions like District Honor Band or All State. Looking back, if I had actually learned to want to play music simply for its enjoyment more so, than just having the desire to gain a lot of skills in it, I probably would still be interested in studying it to this day. However, things have changed, and so have I. This being said, I still love listening to and analyzing music, and not just the lyrical music that you hear on the radio, but also, the works of composer’s like Alfred Reed, Wagner, and so forth. I mean, everyone loves a good a song that is enjoyable and contains substantive commentary on things like politics. However, there is something beneficial to a person’s development to be able to enjoy and connect with something that cannot be created and recreated with words. Working on and performing a piece of music teaches you vital skills like communication, sacrifice, discipline, and creative intellect. It teaches you the importance of emoting, and how to finesse a crowd with nothing but sound. I could honestly go on and on about this, but I say all of this to show that at its core, music makes a person understand humanity. It has existed in all times and ages, and has been shaped by different cultures. It isn’t just a source of entertainment, but it is a history teller, exposing truths and conveying conditions. It makes us feel unexplainable things, and helps us to understand ourselves. It is universal, and its power is unmatched, so of course those that handle it have a great deal of knowledge about humanity.
To me, these are prime examples of why kids who really delve into humanities come out as strong agents for leading society. They have engaged in content that is telling of the human condition, and they have done so in such an abstract way. They have seen and heard struggle embodied in the form of an adventurous plot or the dissonance in the dark ballad. They can put to words what everyone inherently knows, but what many don’t know how to say. So, next time you hear about a kid with an inquiry towards acting, singing, writing poetry, making art, or any of those things we seem to deem as past times, remember to encourage and affirm them because one day they could be a leader in society.