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I profess not to be any great writer.

These are the ponderings

of a poor man's mind.

  • Nate Barker

I’m So Wild About Harry

Updated: May 2


This was originally written on 7/25/11. After going to the doctor yesterday to get tested for COVID-19 it seemed appropriate to resurrect this one and share.


 

The other day I had a bad cough and I needed to go over to my local friendly doctor’s. When I arrived there was the obligatory wait in the aptly named “waiting room”, complete with its thinly upholstered seating (awkwardly set at right angles) as well as the tones of soothing light jazz from the overhead speakers. I’m pretty sure this is meant to lower your blood pressure before you see the doctor. And what waiting room wouldn’t be complete without an assortment of magazines to choose from.


I’ve always hated picking up these magazines. You go to the doctor’s office because you are either sick or you think you’re sick. Sometimes I fall into this latter category. The last thing I want to do, in the very place I long to avoid, is pick up a magazine fondled by sick people. Who knows what disease I might pick up which would lead me right back to the same wait room I was shunning in the first place. Geesh!


This has all the makings of an investigative report waiting to happen.


“Tonight on 20/20 – ‘Dirty Magazines’. No it’s not porn but it could land some doctors in the pen. Are doctors intentionally creating a revolving door by providing you with germ laden reading materials? Our investigative reporters go undercover, reading some of the dirtiest magazines out there!”


Anyway, I make it a point to either bring my own reading materials or in an extreme case choose something from the very back of the rack. I figure that the further back it is, the less it’s been handled (what is the shelf life of a germ anyway?).


But on this trip to the doctor’s office something new happened. As I went for my customary seat in the waiting room, I noticed a fresh-looking copy of “Time” magazine. It actually looked more than fresh, it looked crisp. I cautiously walked over to the rack, probably subconsciously holding my breath. I glanced at the cover and, no lie, it had the current date on it. Not just the date of the current week’s issue, but the actual date of my visit to the doctor’s office. Wow! And on top of that…it was only 9:40 in the morning. The only people who could have possibly touched this copy were the nurses, the doctor, the mail carrier, the mail sorter, and the person who packaged it at the end of the assembly line. It was that crisp!


I took a dare.


Seated, I began to leaf through it pages. I read quickly through the little tid-bits and sound-bites that they place at the beginning of such magazines, always there to whet your appetite, and then moved on to the meatier content. That’s when the next surprise hit me. Actually, it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it was shock and dismay. My eyes glanced upon a four page article on the continued ethnic tensions and bloodshed in Southern Sudan.


There were big pictures of the poverty and desolation of a country ravished by war and hatred. There were the stories of babies born, just to die in starvation. Stories of self-serving militia leaders who would rather shoot first and never ask any questions later. Stories of botched diplomatic attempts to save a fragile country. It was four full pages of horror, dismay and little hope.


But my further shock and dismay came when I turned to the following article. Time, in all its journalistic brilliance, had only allowed space on the next six pages to cover the deep and troubled world of “fan fiction”, kicked off by the final installment of the Harry Potter movies series. Only six pages!


Didn’t they realize the magnitude of this moment in time in history?!? Didn’t they understand that fan fiction is what keeps writers up at night, worrying if there next great work will be fleeced by some kid in Milwaukee that found a crack in their plot line? And on top of that, what about Harry? The article only briefly touched on his final movie and his lasting legacy on the world.


It seems to me that this is the way our society is heading en masse.


We push aside the truly moving stories of our generation for the mundane and often graphic scenes of genocide and violence that have been persistently with us for centuries. Let’s face it, those scenes are not going away any time soon, but who will stand up and speak for Harry and his story? As fictional characters they often have no voice except when we help them find it. Harry can’t fend for himself. He is isolated in the pages of a book or trapped on a frame of film. He can’t continue to tell his story, seek help to defeat the demons that tear his world apart or live a happy and fruitful life - unless we lend aid. But the world, especially the liberal press, is holding his story back. Instead they flash images of babies dying of malnutrition, boys missing limbs that were blown off as they were forced to be child soldiers, or the stories of women raped so many times they’ve lost more than a thousand deaths could steal.


Harry Potter, I hear your cry! I understand your pain! I am here for you and I stand in solidarity. There is so much of your story that we still don’t understand. Your world is foreign and mysterious to us. We don’t always understand the backdrop on which you must perform the tasks of your day. You eek out an existence while forces beyond your control try to crush you.


As I look out across the vast sea of internet fundraisers, where is the one for Harry? Who will make sure the next book is written and published? How will those moving stories, which remind of us of our own hurt, pain, triumph, and loves every make it to the silver screen.


Now, before you get too up in arms, let me remind you that there is yet hope. As it seems to happen more times than not, the hope doesn’t lie with us, but with our children. They have read the books and watched the movies. They have collected the playing cards, the action figures, the Happy Meal surprise toys, the clothing apparel, the faux wizard wands, the knock-off signature Potter eye glasses, the notebooks, flashlights, fruit snacks, and sundry other items that bear Harry’s image. They are the ones that keep the conversation about Hogwarts alive at the dinner table and around the school yard playground. The kids are on top of the issues that surround Harry and his friends. The children will lead us to a bright new day where we can act to do something about sequels, character’s rights, and marketing revenues.


Don’t get me wrong, the horrors of genocide must be taught as well, but we must rely of those stories to remind us of how good we have it

and how civil our society is.


The truth is, too many of these stories of war keep first world children from being able to escapes the pains and disappointments of their own lives. Slow internet speeds, quickly changing clothing fashions, and an overabundance of food choices cripple our children.


Kids need a place of escape from their world. They need to be able to look past the iPhone screen to the bigger allure of the movie screen. Kids need clear lines of fact and fiction and Harry provides that escape.


When the reality of the world crowds out the reality in our minds, we find no happy pasture to graze. The actions of slavery and war, rape and death give us no peace…and we demand peace…at all costs.


I ended up leaving the magazine where I found it and walked into the exam room when my name was called. As I did, two thoughts crossed my mind. The first,


“I wonder if the kids in Dafur know about Harry Potter and the lessons he can teach them?”


The second, as I covered my hacking cough with my hand,


“Maybe I did pick up a disease from that magazine.”



 

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