Thursday, April 18, 2019

Raising Harry, Katniss, and Tris

I've written before on World Moms Network about the activism of the teens who started March for Our Lives to take on gun violence, but I didn't address it on this blog because of the poverty focus of this particular site. However, as their youth movement grows even beyond the issue of gun violence and into areas like climate change, I have a few things to say since the topics of advocacy and motherhood are firmly within the scope of my musings here.

I continue to hear comments of surprise from my fellow parents about how "kids today" are getting so involved in activism. In general, we're seeing an uptick of kids being more aware of government, advocacy, and social justice. I pick up on this general feeling of "Where is this all coming from?" As usual when kid behavior is involved, the question can be answered: From us. From the situations our generation created. From the things we left undone. And...from the things we parents embrace in movies and book/movie franchises like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Divergent

How could anyone be all that surprised when thousands of kids raised on a steady diet of ethical rebellion began standing up for their generation and our world? We reap what we sow. I, for one, have sown these seeds intentionally and delightfully. I saw what J.K. Rowling was telling us about taking a stand against racism and fascism. I imagined what it would be like to raise the three fingers of my left hand in salute to Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games in her fight against a system keeping a population distracted and locked in its economic disparity. I cheered for Tris from Divergent, who broke away from her family to be true to herself and eventually lead a rebellion for those trapped in a social experiment in post-apocalyptic, future Chicago.

I suppose there were many parents who saw only stories of magic and adventure. Famously, there were still others who missed the point and boycotted the Potter franchise because they thought it was anti-religious and promoted witchcraft. But I've long been a fan of fantasy and sci-fi fiction. I love it's power to both take us away from a world of problems while simultaneously holding up a mirror to our society and asking, "Who do YOU want to be in your story?" The stories never show us a literal roadmap for history. Rather, they are inspirational for the spirit.
"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed." 
-- G.K. Chesterton

The Parkland students who founded the March for Our Lives movement against gun violence have been open about their view of themselves as Dumbledore's Army. If that is the role my children and their generation cast for themselves, then I cast myself as Order of the Phoenix member Molly Weasley who feeds them, tends to their hurts, worries about them, and also plays backup in case a LaStrange shows up. I am NOT here to take the baton (or wand) away from anyone. We adults had our chance alone. The body count from school gun violence continues to mount. The Order led and fought, but did not finish the job. Now, we must walk beside Harry Potter, Hermoine Granger, Ron Weasley, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky as their partners - not their betters.

Look what happened when a group of these kids were suddenly thrust into a battleground at their school as deadly as the Battle of Hogwarts. Instead of being consumed by their victimhood, they were inspired by the Boy Who Lived to see themselves as the Ones Who Lived and could become Dumbledore's Army. They started building a diverse and inclusive movement by organizing with other kids across the country who had also experienced gun violence. They grew in fame as they took the battle to their own larger than life Voldemort - the NRA - and became household names even as they craved the time to heal. In Emma Gonzalez's own words in her New York Times Op-ed, "All of us know what it feels like to be Harry Potter now." Now, a public tide is turning as more adults are following their lead to reach out to Congress. State by state and even in the U.S. House of Representatives, gun violence bills are starting to gain support.

Not all the authors in our bookshelves promoting change gave us heroes and heroines rising up in rebellion. I knew Rick Riordon was masterfully spreading tolerance and acceptance by giving us a sweet love story between male demigods Nico di Angelo and Will Solace several books into the Percy Jackson series once we were all invested in the residents of Camp Half Blood. I knew Riordan was educating ME about gender fluidity in the Magnus Chase series as he grew the relationship between Magnus and Alex Fierro. I knew how important it was to give Magnus a history of homelessness and a best friend who was deaf. Riordan continued to spread a message of tolerance in "The Ship of the Dead" by giving Magnus' character the ability to defeat his enemy with love and positivity, not force and negativity. 

Now...with all that said. I will have to eat a little bit of crow if one of my kids turns out to be a criminal mastermind like Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl, but as my kids and I read the series to the end, I think we - and Artemis - are all gonna be okay. If you're not sure what I mean by that...well...your adventure awaits :)