The Voldemort Complex

Adjusting to the reality of our new President-elect has reminded me of a different, more fictitious but just as dangerous villain.

Since the election, I’ve read a great deal of media online: everything from thinkpieces, to warnings, to resource compilations, to Twitter threads, to good old-fashioned articles. And I’ve learned a lot. But I’ve also noticed something. There is often a tendency to avoid saying–or typing–the new President elect’s name. See? Like I did just there. And it’s reminding me of another antagonistic character that many of us are just as familiar with.

Voldemort. Yes, the ultimate villain from the Harry Potter series, also known by titles such as You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Most of the characters in Harry Potter never said his real name, because they were terrified of what it stood for. But then there was the everlastingly wise and grandfatherly Dumbledore. Dumbledore, holding a lot of clout as the headmaster of Hogwarts, was the only character who, of his own accord, spoke Voldemort’s name. Dumbledore refused to give Voldemort the power that came with fear. He refused to be afraid.

Now, I’m not really advocating one way or the other; I think it’s okay for you to say Trump’s name, or not do so. Obviously, the two situations are different. For one, the world we’re living in is no work of fiction. Donald Trump is real. But he also won’t appear if you say his name three times in front of a mirror (mixing references, I know, I know). And because this is painfully real, it’s okay to be scared. Not scared of Trump putting a curse on you, but of what he might do and what his mindset has already brought upon us. It’s okay to be scared of the new cabinet appointees that, more with each passing day, resemble the Death Eaters that began to fill the Ministry of Magic towards the end of the series. In the end, saying or writing his name won’t give him any more or less power than he already has as the President-elect, and fearing him won’t change the results of the election. It’s kind of a nasty word, though, isn’t it? “Trump.” Overpowering. Demanding. All-consuming.

Harry, in the end, decided that Dumbledore was right: fearing the villain wouldn’t help anyone. That idea holds true here. But if this somewhat winding train of thought has any takeaway, I want it to be this: don’t let the fear consume you. It’s okay to be scared, a lot of us are. But if you are able and it is safe for you to do so, when you’re ready, turn that fear into action. Mobilize it. The Harry Potter series ended with the Battle of Hogwarts, which also ended Voldemort’s reign of terror. Again, it’s different in our reality – storming the White House and waving wands probably isn’t the best strategy. However, just like the members of the society Harry inhabited, we can take a stand against oppression. There are more opportunities than ever for social activists. You don’t need to worry about destroying Horcruxes or learning spells, but if you can, do something.


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