Weary from watching the telecasts of the Senate hearings on the flawed implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Act, which led to the untimely release of convicted felons serving life sentences for heinous crimes, I would always take a breather and watch the US cable newscasts. Each and every time, I would be cheered by the realization that somehow, by some miniscule chance, we in the Philippines were still better off than our American friends.
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported the removal of J.K. Rowling’s popular serialization of the life of a young wizard from the library of a Catholic school in Nashville, Tennessee. A pastor of the school recommended the removal after consulting several “exorcists” from Rome and the United States. Sharing the pastor’s apprehension over the books encouraging forays by the young into black magic and the occult, the exorcists reportedly suggested the purging of the tainted books from the school’s library. For only in America can exorcists determine a book’s merit.
The pastor was fully convinced that the students’ souls were in danger of being corrupted by the heretical concepts expounded in the series. In an email, copy of which was obtained by Nashville media, the pastor declared, “These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception.” He further explained that “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”
Seriously? So, if I chant “Wingardia leviosa” and point to my coffee cup, it will start rising in the air?
This is not the first time that the Harry Potter series was severely criticized. Fundamentalist evangelical Christian groups strongly opposed the books since it glorified the practice of witchcraft. So virulent was the opposition that it led to book burnings, from 1997 to the preesnt. Of the faithful, only the Church of Latter-Day Saints, the Jewish rabbis and the Iranian Shi’ite clerics understood the story as a classic tale of good prevailing over evil.
But what is striking is the sheer amount of time, dedication and resources consumed in convincing communities that this epic account of a young wizard’s adventures and right of passage from childhood into adulthood is but a veneer masking an insidious scheme to corrupt the minds of children and adolescents and turning them into satanic worshippers. Such protestations seem hypocritical — especially when these same God-fearing groups remain silent over the true evil — the incidents of genocide in other parts of the world. Instead of attempting to unmask the non-existent evil in books for the young, the resources could have been better utilized in aiding the hapless victims, mostly women and children, in Myanmar, South Sudan and elsewhere. Alas, only in America can avowed defenders of morality be oblivious to the evil that exists in the real world, but find the devil incarnate hiding within the pages of a children’s book.