No spoilers here. (What do you think this is, The New York Times?)
Recently, the Wall Street Journal blamed Mr. Rogers for turning our children into self-important little creeps by telling "several generations of children that they were 'special' just for being whoever they were." But the damage that Mr. Rogers has done to our youth pales in comparison with the harm caused by the Harry Potter series.
On the eve of the publication of the seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it is time to reflect on their pernicious influence. What will happen to the kids who grew up reading these books when they discover that they are not special after all, that they are not really wizards with untapped magical powers just waiting to be whisked off to a better life, but are just muggles after all? What happens when they discover that the terrorists cannot be defeated simply by waving a magic wand?
Although some admirers have pointed out that the Harry Potter books have gotten kids reading again, this has come at the expense of taking them away from more important pursuits like playing video games which prepare them for the 21st century wars they will be fighting. Reading books, as many Americans are coming to discover, is overrated anyway, but reading these books (which for many Americans are the only books they do read) could be especially detrimental because of the lessons they are teaching our children and even many adults.
Harry Potter is a terrible role model. He is a petulant, self-pitying brat who routinely breaks rules that he believes don't apply to him. In the anything goes, slippery slope morality of Harry Potter's world, nothing is taboo, not even having an affair with a horse, as he did last year on the London stage. He thinks the world owes him something just because he had the misfortune of losing his parents and he doesn't show the least bit of gratitude to the kindly Dursleys for taking him in without any kind of compensation despite all the trouble he has caused them. If he had lived in Charles Dickens' England he would have been shunted off to an orphanage or prison, which at least would have toughened him up and saved us from his relentless whining. Unfortunately, Great Britain is a different place than it was in Dickens' time, when it ruled a great empire. Now its citizens live coddled lives, taking long vacations, living off the dole and depending on socialized medicine, while Muslims slowly begin to take over their overly indulged society. It is certainly a different place from the United States, where we take very few vacations, we force single mothers to work and some people don't have any medical care at all. Although President Bush has stood as a bulwark against indulging children with medical care they cannot afford to pay for, for example, the insidious influence of British socialist propaganda like the Harry Potter books will not make this task any easier.
If J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, had been an American we wouldn't even have been subjected to these terrible books. She was a single mother who leached off the government dole for years while she scribbled away on the first book, daydreaming in Edinburgh cafés about Horcruxes and Patronus charms and other childish things instead of worrying about paying her bills. If she had lived in the United States she would have been forced to get a proper job and had no time to write at all. A self-professed admirer of Jessica Mitford, a muckraking journalist who was a member of the Communist Party, Rowling has filled her books with subversive propaganda, as even her admirers admit.
"In typical children's literature, only "bad kids" disobey adults, and they get hurt or into severe trouble," wrote liberal Mike Hersh. "Heroes seldom question authority, and if they do, they quickly learn their folly. Not in Rowling's realistic view. Her heroes repeatedly defy adults, break rules, and exemplify bold courage in the face of oppressive authority." Harry Potter and his friends are the kinds of kids who would stand outside of Hogwarts with a sign saying "Bong Hits for Jesus," which, thanks to our new Supreme Court, can no longer happen in America.
Hersh points out that Alfonso Cuarón, the illegal immigrant director of the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film in the series, had the temerity to compare the villain Voldemort to both President Bush and Saddam Hussein. "They both have selfish interests and are very much in love with power. Also, a disregard for the environment. A love for manipulating people." The idea that George Bush could in any way be compared to villains like Saddam Hussein and Voldemort, who tortured and killed people, is, of course, preposterous and it is a perfect illustration of the skewed morality of these books. It is not just the use of sorcery and witchcraft that makes Harry Potter different from good Christian fantasies like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, it is the way it tries blur good (us) and evil (them).
The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia base their morality on the Bible where there is a very clear demarcation between good and evil. When God destroys an entire city or floods the Earth or kills all the first-born males in Egypt in the Bible, it is clear that this is a good thing because those people deserved it. But in the Harry Potter books good people sometimes do bad things and people who appear to be bad sometimes do good things. "Good and evil are never clear-cut, it seems; Harry is part Voldemort and Voldemort part Harry," wrote Steve Bonta on Free Republic back in 2000. "Likewise, many of the supporting characters are confusingly two-sided." Hersh, naturally, thinks this is a good thing. "Right wingers see the world -- especially morality -- in stark, simplistic black and white," says the evil Hersh. "They see only right or wrong, good or bad.... By contrast, moderates and liberals - like Rowling's young heroes -- see life in shades of gray. They navigate currents of ambiguity unique in children's literature and even rare in adult fiction."
Of course, it is just this sort of moral ambiguity that will leave us defenseless in the face of our enemies. While our children are being indulged with these fantasies that everyone is a little bit good and a little bit bad, what is the other side doing? On Hamas' children's show an adorable Mickey Mouse-like character preached jihad and was beaten to death by an Israeli. This is the enemy we are fighting. It is an enemy that, if the third-hand, vaguely sourced reporting of Michael Yon is to believed (and who couldn't believe it?), would serve a family a dinner of their own son baked with an apple stuffed in his mouth in order to persuade them to join their cause, which I am sure is a very effective motivating tool. But even Jonah Goldberg, who believes we need to be more "ruthless" in Iraq, balks at the idea of serving our enemies their own children for dinner. Is this any way to win?
While our enemies inspire their budding suicide bombers with martyred mice, we are doing nothing to prepare our children for the great Clash of Civilizations we are bequeathing them. Confusing them with morally ambiguous tales is a prescription for defeat.
Since I don't read the New York Times, which apparently can't keep a secret about anything, I don't know what happens at the end of Deathly Hallows. Although grief hotlines are being set up in case Rowling kills off Harry Potter at the end of the last book, I doubt they will be needed. Rowling, to her credit, has shown that she is willing to make children cry by killing off beloved characters. But as much as I, and many parents, would like to see Harry Potter beaten to death with a stick, I'm afraid we are in for a big disappointment.
Update: In the comments, Julia points out that some conservative bloggers, no doubt out of desperation to please their kids, are making the outlandish claim that Harry Potter is a Young Republican, especially in the most recent film, The Order of the Phoenix, though anyone can see he is nothing of the sort.
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Technorati Tags: Jon Swift, Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, Jonah Goldberg, Deathly Hallows, Mr. Rogers, War on Terror, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics
Friday, July 20, 2007
No spoilers here. (What do you think this is, The New York Times?)