You-Know-Who is here to stay

A comparison between Voldemort and Trump, the Ministry of Magic and government, and varying degrees of injustice


These days “You-Know-Who” can mean a number of different people. Maybe it is Voldemort, the chief villain in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Maybe it’s your best friend’s cheating ex-boyfriend. Or maybe it’s President Donald Trump.

There has been a whirlwind around President Donald Trump and his seeming similarity to both Hitler and Voldemort. To explore this a little further re-reading the fifth Harry Potter book seemed a good idea to get a better grasp on the situation.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” came out in 2003, and while all of the previous books had darker elements to them, this one started the turn towards a more serious and sinister series.

Out of all of the Harry Potter series this book seems to best fit the current American political climate: Voldemort has just returned, the government does not seem to be doing much about that and the protests of the people are being pushed aside to further the interests of a few.

Fortunately, Americans do not have to deal with dementors, gone awry curses or having to learn how to block our minds from attacks while we are sleeping.

Unfortunately, we do have to deal with the problems of a small portion of the populace trying decide who “belongs” in a certain community, deciding between violent and peaceful protests, and knowing what to do when the main news sources are being pressured into saying what the government wants the public to know.

J.K. Rowling built the “Harry Potter” world around the clash between good and evil, as well as the minority against the majority. We see this when Harry tries to tell everyone about the reality that Voldemort is back, only to be punished by Umbridge, the Ministry of Magic’s liaison, for going against governmental decrees. Hermione becomes an activist against the majority when she tries to explain how the enslavement of house-elves is bad, only to be met by ridicule and people trying to, politely, explain to her how the house-elves “want to be enslaved.”

“The Order of the Phoenix” differs from the other Harry Potter books in the way it deals more with a group of people taking on the government and the laws and decrees they disagree with, rather than against a group of people who, while powerful, do not have a complete control over the government or the media.

“The Order of the Phoenix” relies heavily on foreshadowing and we see this theme of taking on authorities come in very early on in the book.

While Harry is at the Dursleys, his mean-spirited relatives, we see Harry defying their orders just to hear a bit of the news. Not even an hour after that Harry is going against larger authorities when he uses magic to defend his cousin and himself. Then when we meet up with his friends we learn that they, too, are trying to defy the powers that be (their mom) in an attempt to learn more about what is going on around them.

This theme is nothing new for any of these characters, who seem to thrive off of sticking their noses in where they do not belong. However, this is a major step up from the paltry crimes of the past.

While the whole series has dealt with injustice and the desire to do good “The Order of the Phoenix” brings these ideas to a head. Whether that be against “half-bloods” like Hagrid or people deemed unworthy and sub-human, like Remus Lupin, the werewolf and Firenze the centaur.

It also makes these feelings visceral for people who have not faced much oppression in their lives. One of the greatest things a book can do is make the reader feel something they never would have in real life. There were times while reading this I was so mad at the injustice of what was being done or said that I stopped reading for a time so I could calm down.

This anger for the characters is what makes the ending so sweet. I always want there to be a happy ending. But while Harry Potter’s journey does end happily in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the real world is often not as clear.

If so many people are angry about what happens to Harry Potter and his group of friends, where does that anger go when it comes to people in our actual communities when the same discrimination happens?

I have heard people complain that the only thing people seem to have read in the last twenty years is Harry Potter. It seems fair when it seems to be the only piece of literature that is being referred to when it comes to Trump. Voldemort was based off of Hitler. J.K. Rowling has been very open about this fact. When people try to compare Trump to Voldemort people tend to laugh and agree, but when Trump is compared to Hitler, the claim is met with resistance and derision.

But what we should all be taking from these books is the idea of standing up for what is right, even if this means making personal sacrifices. Most importantly, though, we should believe in the power of ourselves — that we can make a difference, whether that be on our own or with a group, and knowing that we will be impacting the world no matter what we do –so make it count.

1 Comment

  1. Poor social justice warriors- what politically correct micro-aggression will they try to fix next? Are any other alumni reading this opinion piece and rolling their eyes?

    “When people try to compare Trump to Voldemort people tend to laugh and agree” — sure, and then they graduate from high school and discover their comparison was utterly childish and asinine. Oh- and they also start branching out from the ‘Harry Potter’ series for observations about and connections to society.

    To Susan Fisher and other, like-minded Millennials: Let me be (perhaps) the first person to break it to you: Opinion pieces like this one are exactly the reason why the term “snowflake” was invented and is currently being ascribed to your generation. When words “hurt your feelings,” and you ‘feel’ the need for a safe space to avoid the “meanies” that are those groups with whom you disagree– you become a cliche’ and people stop taking you seriously.

    Stop thinking with your feelings. Martin Luther was oppressed. Gandhi was oppressed. Women in Muslim countries are oppressed. You are not oppressed. You live in the wealthiest country with the most freedom ever experienced by any people- ever. Have the courage and conviction to actually seek out injustice– real injustice– and stop it. Saying “you-know-who” makes you look childish, and declares to other people and groups that you have severe maturity issues. If you want to make an “impact,” you can start there.

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