Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden and Reality

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

There has been much celebrating. People gather in crowds in the streets of D.C. and New York city, chanting "USA! USA!" and waving flags high. Folks on twitter have been tweeting and retweeting a storm of messages, some silly, some serious, and most just caught up in the excitement of it all. On facebook it's more of the same. There are some who question the idea of celebrating a death, raising mixed feelings of relief and joy that a villain has perished and reluctance to wish death and destruction upon even the most despicable of human beings.

Mixed in among the tweets are many Harry Potter references: Comparing the downfall of Osama Bin Laden to that of Voldemort. Joking that Obama must have the Elder Wand. Stating the odd coincidence that this event has occurred the same date as the Battle of Hogwarts.

For some reason, reading these tweets really bothered me. And I couldn't figure out why, until someone else voiced it for me by tweeting: "(My issue with the HP stuff is that equating it seems to cheapen the real loss and sacrifice and accomplishment.)" And I responded: "Agreed. I <3 Harry Potter to the point of mania, but it seems almost disrespectful to compare fiction w/reality in this instance."

I have mixed feelings about this. It seems a little hypocritical that I have been such a huge fan of using parallels between fictional events and real life to promote activism and the HPA, and yet when it comes to news of this nature I want to separate the two. But I do. Why?

I understand that the people who wrote and retweeted these thoughts were speaking in a language of symbols, describing real world events through the specific lens of one story and its world and characters. I should know; I've been invested in doing the same for the past twelve years of my life. But here's the thing: stories are important, but they only hold meaning because they reflect truths that actually exist in reality. And so as much as I dedicate my life to stories and legends and myths, I must draw a line between the fictional and the real.

The Battle of Hogwarts was a moving event. I cried real tears reading about it, and "losing" characters I have loved since the beginning of the series. But REAL PEOPLE died on September 11th and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Voldemort "killed" many many people during his reign of terror in the wizarding world. But Bin Laden was a REAL Dark Lord, responsible for the REAL deaths of thousands of REAL PEOPLE. Equating real life losses and sacrifices and heroism to something a (very talented) woman made up in her head and wrote down on a piece of paper just seems cold.

I think I'm overanalyzing this, and I'm tired so my logic is a bit fuzzy. But it just seems strange. I never thought I'd be the person to say, "Come on, people... it's just a BOOK!" Because I know it's much more than that. But in this instance, I feel like it is. It's a fictional story that will never entirely capture the real losses so many of us have experienced.

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