Not that this should come as any surprise, but we now have confirmation that the Bush administration refused to award Harry Potter author JK Rowling the Presidential Medal of Freedom because the books “encouraged witchcraft.”
For a second, let’s set aside any arguments over whether or not Rowling’s work merits such a lofty honor and do something that we simply don’t do enough these days. Let’s dig beneath the surface silliness and examine the deeper implications of what this revelation really means.
Put simply, would you be worried about “encouraging” something you didn’t think was possible? It’s one thing to want to discourage, say, meth use or binge drinking or texting while driving or unprotected sex. Those things are real and they have real, observable consequences. If Rowling’s books were encouraging angel-dust-fueled arson sprees, we’d all be advised to support the former president and his merry band of loco parentis.
But did they see witchcraft as real? (Sure, practitioners of Wicca and other neo-paganisms indulge in the craft, but for a variety of reasons I think we have to assume that’s not what Bush was concerned with. After all, Rowling doesn’t talk about real-world Wicca, and real-world Wiccans don’t fly through the skies of London terrorizing the Mugglery. Whatever the real world’s witches may or may no be up to, it has so far proven very unHollywood-worthy.)
So, do we then conclude that President Bush and his cronies wanted to discourage children from learning how to change each other into rats? From flying around on brooms? From trying to outwit dragons? From teleporting via fireplaces? From sneaking around under invisibility capes?
Certainly these are the sorts of things that we’d want to keep our children away from, I suppose. But while Dubya may have resisted the corrosive effects of education, there are rules of logic and he is not magically immune to them. By definition, one wouldn’t actively discourage children from something that was in fact impossible. Not unless one were absolutely barking, anyway. It might theoretically be dangerous for young children to attack the Xyrxalian Star Fleet on Pegasus-back, for instance, but you don’t recall any Executive admonitions on the subject, do you?
Still, let’s remember, the Bible says that witches are real. Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin consulted freely with a witchbusting “minister.” The shenanigans at Hogwarts are barely more outlandish than some of what went on in the White House when Nancy Reagan, wife of Bush’s intellectual hero Ronald Reagan, was in residence.
And we’re talking about a man who believes that God commanded him to run for president.
Therefore, I believe we have every reason to believe that our former president did, in fact, view the kinds of powers imagined by Rowling in her best-selling series to be plausible.
Since this is America, we have to respect his faith.