11:30 am EST, November 14, 2016

To fight back: Harry, Katniss, and what the world really needs right now

It’s been building for a while; the TV-show-like nature of politics, the resurgence of race supremacy in discourse all around the world, the radicalization of youth, the breeding of senseless fear to keep populations under control. People acting like Death Eaters and Gamemakers.

The Harry Potter fandom and the Hunger Games fandom — and those of us who belong to both — have been particularly vocal about the parallels between the Wizarding World or Panem, and this world, which suddenly seems to be full of more bigotry and hatred than before.

Many of us have been aware of the existence of this discrimination for a long time, while many others are only discovering it now. Many of us thought we knew all about it, but only just now realized the extent of it.

We weren’t at all surprised to see that Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater. But we were shocked to see Cornelius Fudge’s denial of the danger Voldemort posed, and to see how quickly the Ministry could fall.

Now, many of us want to fight.

This idea of “fighting back” is everywhere right now, often accompanied with comparisons to Dumbledore’s Army, or The Mockingjay. Like I’ve said in an article before, fandom and human rights have always been linked, and they always will be. By “fighting,” different people mean different things — and all feelings of fear and anger towards the resurgence of hateful dialogue, especially those of minorities, are completely valid. But as a fandom — as millennials — let’s analyze what we really mean when we say “fighting back.”

There’s something exciting and epic about being a part of Dumbledore’s Army, or to be the Mockingjay. But reality will require more of us than that.

There’s much more that has to be done — work that perhaps may not seem as epic as fighting Voldemort one-on-one, or racing through the Capitol fighting mutts. It’s the quiet, compassionate actions of empathetic individuals that brought about the very existence of The Mockingjay and The Chosen One and enabled them to create change.

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Harry meets Draco Malfoy a second time on the Hogwarts Express, and Malfoy offers him his friendship, along with some diatribe about the ‘right sort’ of wizards. Most eleven-year-olds, confronted with a dilemma like this one, would have had a hard time deciding what stance to take. But Harry immediately declines. What made Harry ready to recognize and reject discrimination in that crucial moment?

It was Hagrid. Hagrid, knowingly or unknowingly, told Harry the truth about Voldemort, even when it was difficult — even when it was painful. He explained blood prejudice, and some of the complexities of a world Harry was only beginning to discover. He equipped Harry with information in a way that made him think ‘not Slytherin’: the first of many choices he would make to veer away from Tom Riddle.

And Katniss, scared, lonely, and already cynical… Katniss had Cinna. He treated her kindly, empowered her, and showed her that she could be more than just a pawn in the Games. He was her inspiration.

The fight begins long before the hero is even aware of it. It begins with conversations.

So what is our role now, as we look at the world around us, and at the negative forces that are operating so diligently, so fiercely?

Who helped you become the person you are today? What did they say? How did they make you feel that you mattered?

Because this is about so much more than just “fighting”. It’s not about simply informing people, either. This is about affecting the core of each individual — the part of them that can be selfless and empathetic, that can think critically. It’s about equipping people with the tools that they will need to survive in a world that’s trying to feed their frustration and transform it into hatred. It’s about raising a generation that will refuse to participate in the Hunger Games, a generation that will not even allow the Sorting to divide them.

So now, as you feel the pain and the fear and the sadness, go and speak to the people around you. Do something for this story, before it’s too late. Find Barty Crouch Jr. as he feels unloved and unworthy, before he’s drawn in by those who will groom him for evil.

Find Draco Malfoy; give him someone to speak to when he cries in the bathroom. Show him that there are people who will listen, people from every House. People who won’t judge him for his family or for the beliefs he’s been mindlessly spewing because he didn’t know better. Show him that someone believes in his potential to be good.

Find all those kids who are being trained to be Careers, who are being brainwashed into thinking that they have no voice unless that voice is used for violence. Find them, and be an example. Help them escape. Help them meet people like Finnick; to see how a person can bring about change despite their own scars.

And finally, find Gale Hawthorn. Remind him that we always have a choice. Help him use his talents to build, rather than destroy. Help him understand what lines he cannot cross. And love him, despite the mistakes he makes. His pain is valid. His fear is valid. His voice is heard.

Find Gale in the young people around you, among your friends, among the children… even within yourself.

It will be difficult. It will be uncomfortable. It might even hurt. But isn’t that sacrifice, after all, what made those stories powerful?

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