Fiction-all art in fact-holds a mirror up to reality. That mirror may be painfully accurate or distorted by fantasy, but either way that mirror reflects truths of humanity. It is where we find comfort and discomfort, the world as it is or as we wish it to be, a place of refuge and a place of strength.
Like billions of people across the world, I am struggling to come to terms with the events which played out in America this week. Before you turn away in boredom or disgust (though I assure you I would have the greatest sympathy if you did, for the internet is dark and full of terrors at this time), I urge you to place the results of the election into a wider context. This is not just about Trump’s election. It’s more about what his election says about our world.
We are entering into a period of “Interesting Times” and must brace ourselves for what is to come. You have studied the events of the twentieth century I am sure, though it is unlikely that your high school history teacher was anywhere near as brilliant as mine (thank you, Mr Walters). A clear grasp of the events which led to first World War I and then World War II is essential knowledge for us all at this time, so if you were not paying attention in class, go back and look over your notes again. Better yet, photocopy the notes your Hermione Granger-type friend took and study those.
Taken in isolation at the time, not one of the key moments looked as if it could lead to the global horrors that followed. Together they did. It happened. And if history teaches us anything, it teaches us that we are slow learners. Every clock has a pendulum swinging back and forth-that is the nature of time. So, get ready. The pendulum is about to go about as far to the right as it is able.
Read the news. Look around you. Pay attention. Open your eyes, ears and mind to the new reality. It ain’t pretty. We are only days into the New Trump Order and already race hate, misogyny and homophobia are running rampant. The Death Eaters are gearing up for a march toward Mordor.
Fortunately, we keen readers of YA Genre Fiction are uniquely prepared for just such a state of affairs. All those delightful hours losing ourselves in the dystopian world of Panem, cheering on Dumbledore’s Army and following the terrifying journeys of The Fellowship are about to pay off. These brilliant authors, these beloved characters and these rich tales of heroism were preparing us all along for difficult days.
The following is a survival guide for the wars to come. I wish you good fortune. I wish us all wisdom and fortitude to make it through.
When Katniss was in her second Arena, she did not know who to trust. Haymitch’s words echoed in her head: “Remember who the real enemy is.” The real enemy is probably not the person next to you who voted for Trump or whose parents voted for Trump. The real enemy at the moment is the same enemy who always rears is ugly head at times like these: that three-headed hydra of Fear, Ignorance and Greed.
Ask yourself why did the middle of America vote for Trump in large numbers? Why did working class voters in Britain vote for Brexit? It’s too easy to say because they were stupid. Ignorance is not the same as Stupidity. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge and understanding, not a lack of brain power. And it is easy to be ignorant when the popular press is all you read and it is telling you that immigrants took your jobs (sound familiar? Daily Prophet anyone?). The Greed and Ignorance heads of the hydra working together.
The greatest con being pulled right now is that immigrants are to blame for the economic and employment difficulties happening in the UK and the US. But the real enemy is the greed of the wealthy business owners who moved their manufacturing to cheaper countries, bleeding the working class of their own countries dry. These same greedy, wealthy business tycoons are also influencing or, in the case of Trump, running the governments which are convincing the people that immigrants are to blame.
Know the enemy.
Frodo would not have made it to Mt Doom without Sam by his side. Harry Potter needed Hermione and Ron. Buffy needed her Scooby Gang. We won’t make it through this alone.
Make sure, however, that these friends are true friends. Like-minded individuals who see the truth as you do and are determined to fight against it rather than give in to the popular opinion. Prepare to be in the minority to start with. You and your friends may be targeted. Stick together. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Luna and Neville had Harry’s back when everyone thought he was lying about You Know Who.
Be that army.
Rule Number Three: Stay True to Yourself
Lucy Pevensie, hero of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, is one of my favourite characters because she stuck by her truth even when her entire family thought she was a deluded liar. She knew that she had gone through a wardrobe into a magical land to have tea with a talking fawn and no one could tell her otherwise. She didn’t back down and question herself. Popular opinion did not sway her.
If you can see the hate and lies swarming around you and you know it is wrong, stick by your truth. Don’t compromise your principles just because everyone else thinks you’re crazy or stupid. Bigotry is wrong no matter what. Persecuting someone based on race or religion, gender or sexual orientation is just plain wrong and you know it is.
Even Katniss risks losing herself first to the Capitol’s blackmailing demands that she quell the rebellion by becoming their pawn, then by her own demons which threaten her sanity. “To thy ownself be true.” See, your English teacher is right. Shakespeare is relevant.
Know your truth.
They may have cookies, but those cookies are poison. Another of my favourite childhood books (which you should read if you haven’t yet) is Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark Trilogy. In the second book, The Kestrel, hero Theo joins a rebellion for all the right reasons, but soon becomes a monster who nearly kills the woman he loves. Seriously. Go read these books.
The Dark Side is a bit of theme with YA Genre Fiction. Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Buffy Summers, Frodo, Katniss-they all face the choice of becoming the very thing they despise. In the end, they all choose the light.
By all means join the resistance. Go to rallies. Organise walk outs. Protest to the rooftops. But keep a clear set of guiding principles in mind. When in doubt, think on this: do you really want your good cause to be won through bad actions?
Don’t give in.
Rule Number Five: Take Time for Joy
I believe, as do many others, that we are in for some hard times head. The way might be dark and difficult, full of hard choices and ugly events. But even in the midst of all this, take time to be happy. Dance at a wedding with your little sister. Fall in love with your best friend’s little sister. Celebrate birthdays even when the vampires are assembling a doomsday monster. Play sports, eat great food, take lots of selfies to mark these precious moments spent with those you love. Otherwise, what are you fighting for?
Live for joy.