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I read the Harry Potter series to each of my children, for each one stopping at the point when they decided to pick up the book themselves and read the rest.

Josh was at the age where he was still bothered by nightmares when we read Prisoner of Azkaban - so I talked with him about scary things - dementors and boggarts - and in the course of it I realized what Rowling was trying to teach young readers about fear.

I told Josh that nightmares were like boggarts. They can scare you - they can be what you are most afraid of - but they can't hurt you. All they are is fear.

Now, there are things that really can hurt you. And for that you have to take other steps; you can't just banish fear and be done. But in the story, by separating out fear and giving it the persona of a boggart - representing anxiety, terror, dread, separated for a moment from real power or real events - Rowling showed exactly how to defeat it.

(Keep in mind that fear is being deliberately sown - because contra Yoda, fear leads to despair, despair leads to inaction, inaction leads to dictatorship). Fear is a weapon that must be countered on its own.

Rowling's lesson is that the way to counter fear is to laugh.

Fear cannot survive when people are laughing.

After only a few discussions of boggarts - a few conversations about how to wake after a nightmare, think about what was so scary, and then imagine how to make it ridiculous (Riddikulus) - Josh stopped having nightmares.

This isn't Rowling's invention, of course. Consider Spike Jones' "Der Fuhrer's Face". Laughter works as propaganda. It demolishes unearned respect. It renews the soul. It banishes fear.

Of course, much more than laughter is needed. Laughter doesn't stop oppression or damage. But when you are terrified of what is coming, what is already happening, if you give in to terror, you participate in the damage. But by laughing, you inoculate yourself against self-damage. Against participating in the oppression. You prevent yourself from making it worse.

And It really is hilarious, this child, this narcissist, who thinks, who really thinks, he's qualified to run the world. It's dangerous that he's there, but do not be afraid; remember, he is a man-child, who petulantly insists on respect he doesn't deserve; he hates it when he's laughed at.

I wrote a short story a few years back, in the dreamwidth archives somewhere, that ended with the Lord God Almighty telling a damned fool, "When I said 'be not afraid', I meant it."

So laugh. Stop cowering. It's important. Laugh at the clown who's so absurd he thinks he is entitled to your respect - he thinks he can make you afraid. Keep laughing. Share all the pathetic, foolish, childish, petulant, boastful, imbecilic things about Trump. Delight in the discomfort your laughter sows. Because it banishes the boggart. Step one - accomplished. You have stopped fear itself from hurting you.

Laugh, and then get to work stopping the damage.

Yes, we can

Feb. 4th, 2008 11:04 am
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I just watched the Giants beat the Patriots in an unbelievable game, with one absolutely unbelievable play.

Means nothing in a rational sense, but I am convinced now. The day before Super Tuesday, with a CNN poll for the very first time showing Obama with a nationwide lead over Clinton among Democrats, with Maria Shriver and Kevin Drum (each significant and surprising for different reasons) endorsing Obama, this is it.

This man is RFK. Just go listen to him.

And whomever you support, vote tomorrow, assuming you're in a state that does.

Politics

Jan. 23rd, 2008 11:24 am
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Looks like for once California really does get what it wants -- a meaningful voice in the presidential primaries. This is going to be the make-or-break state for both the underdogs. For Romney and Obama, if they don't win California they're done; if they win California, they can keep going (assuming reasonable support elsewhere).

Of course it's still two weeks away. Obama has to win South Carolina (and it looks like he will). McCain meanwhile is going to get a lot stronger because he's probably going to win Florida -- if Romney can pull that off he gets a big boost.

Though Obama's got the problem that he has to stay competitive everywhere. R primaries are winner-take-all; D primaries are proportional-rep. If Romney squeaks out wins in a dozen big or medium states, he can deny McCain the delegate majority, while losing the medium states in a blowout would crush Obama. Winner-take-all does magnify "momentum", but note that the beauty-contest popular vote wins are what the press spends most of its time talking about. Clinton has won more primaries; Obama has more delegates; yet Clinton is considered the frontrunner. Since the press treats the Democratic primaries as though they were winner-take-all, they are effectively winner-take-all as far as momentum is concerned.

TPM claims the polls don't show any greater dislike for McCain among Republican primary voters than for any other candidate, which probably means the hoped-for backlash, should he get the nomination, is a mirage. Still, he has yet to receive the plurality of Republicans in any primary; the only ones he's won have been open primaries, where independents could cross over, and in each case without the independents he would have lost. California's Republican primary is closed; maybe his momentum doesn't have the legs all the press clearly hopes it does.

But probably not. I think I have a solution to one thing that's confusing a lot of prominent Left Blogistan writers...Read more... )

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