I'm Sorry, So Sorry...

By Edgar J. Steele

I'm sorry, so sorry,

Please accept my apology...
     -Brenda Lee, circa 1963

November 2, 2001

Well.  I've rarely had to apologize for something I have written, let alone posted to this list, which is, as advertised, "politically incorrect" (unlike the lamentable TV show carrying that name). 

Maybe I should call up Bill Maher and chew him out for having degraded the phrase "politically incorrect," because its true meaning seems lost on many of us.  But, that's a discussion for another day. 
Today I apologize for my Halloween Harry Potter essay, "Trick or Treat," which may be found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ConspiracyPenPals/message/42 .
I am truly sorry...really, truly, awfully, terribly sorry...that I resorted to subtlety and sarcasm.  I should have said it straight out.  Let's rectify that right now:  anybody who thinks that the Harry Potter books are occultist and likely to corrupt the children reading them is a complete and utter moron.  Doubly so if that person has not, his or herself, actually read at least one of the J. K. Rowling best sellers, which seems to be the norm for those who criticize them.
Come on, admit it.  It played better as subtlety and sarcasm, now didn't it?  I thought the business about Goofy and Pluto was really funny, too.  Sigh.
Not sure I have gotten more outlandish criticism of anything I have written since the seventh grade.  More, even, than I get from the Chosen when I dare talk about the real reason the WTC got destroyed, though many will sit slackjawed in disbelief at that statement.  Incredible.  Simply incredible.  I would have thought that fundamentalist Christians had spent enough time in the box to be a bit more tolerant of divergent points of view.
A sampler of the negative comments I received:
"The things you mention in rebuttal are fun, but Harry Potter is not just fun.  It is a teaching tool for demonic influences."
"(Y)ou ignore the Potter warnings at YOUR OWN peril."
"I got the impression that you were trying to make fun of the Bible and the man from Wisconsin that told about the Harry Potter Books.  I can't believe that you were not intelligent enough to see the evil in the books yourself."

"You are just plain sad for thinking like this. I am glad my children will never have to meet a bigot like you!!"

"I don't like the stench that comes with mocking the truth. . . please remove me from your email list."

"I thought you were more intelligent than that."
As an aside, some actually took the piece straight, as though I actually found it reprehensible that Donald Duck wears no pants.  I'm going to give those poor souls the benefit of the doubt and presume they just skimmed the essay, thereby missing my point altogether.
The ones I want to talk to (and about) today are those who so vehemently disagreed with my obvious belief in the Harry Potter books' being harmless and entertaining fare for America's children:  Get a grip.  You know who you are.  Take the tinfoil off your head (yes, we know you have secretly lined that baseball cap with it) and let the breeze of original thinking trickle through the dendrites and synapses.
"Digging ditches," we called it in elementary school.  There was this fellow who spoke to my fifth-grade class (I think he came through from some encyclopedia company and hoped to sell a set to all our parents) and explained to us how learning worked.  "Your brains are perfectly smooth when you are born," he said.  "As you learn things, tiny little wrinkles develop.  The more you learn, the more wrinkles you get, until your brain looks like this."  Whereupon, he whipped out a plastic (did they have plastic in 1955?) brain, causing all the girls to squeal with disgust while us guys made manly sounds.  This fellow then handed out bookmarkers and buttons, all of which said, "digging ditches in the brain."  Weird, huh?  Guess that's why I remember it.  So, let's dig some ditches today, folks.
Here's the punch line:  Just because someone cloaked with the authority of a church says something, doesn't make it so.  Too bad we didn't learn that back when so many innocent girls were burned at the stake in Salem.  Pastors, reverends, fathers, whatever - they are just people, and as such do not have any particular inside track to the workings of God's mind.  Sometimes, like most psychiatrists, they are even worse at their chosen profession than the unwashed, it seems.
Do I have to remind you of Jimmy Swaggart, caught in that motel room with the hooker?  Or Jim Bakker, caught with his hand in the till (up to his armpit, at that)?  Or the Bagwan Shree Rajneesh (up to his burnoose in Rolls Royces)?  Or the Reverend Jesse Jackson (Church of the Unholy Shakedown)?  Or...or...or.......me. 
Okay, now, sit down.  This is going to shake you.  I became an ordained minister about 25 years ago.  I presided over a marriage two years ago, believe it or not.  I have actually read the Bible.  Twice, in fact.  I once was enrolled in a college master's degree program entitled "Mysticism and Comparative Religion"  (I quit when I realized I was merely learning about enlightenment, rather than becoming enlightened).  I tell you this only to establish that I have more than a passing familiarity with things religious.  Why, I could call myself the Reverend Steele, or Pastor Ed, or any of a number of things.  Would that put my pronouncements on a par with so many who do call themselves such? 
As many know, I am particularly protective of free speech.  That necessarily includes speech other than my own.  In particular, it means speech that I would not, in a hundred years, sign on board with, too.  That means speech that conservatives don't like, too.  That means books, of course.
A knee-jerk conservative publication, the New American, reviewed the Harry Potter series (you can find the article at its archives: http://thenewamerican.com/tna/2000/08-28-2000/vo16no18_potter.htm ) and came up with, near as I could tell, the following conclusions:
(1) Because there is no Christ-like figure or good guy in the books, they are, ipso facto, anti-Christ. 
(2) Because the books are not as innocuous as Winnie the Pooh, they are bad. 
(3) Because Harry and the villain share some personality traits, rather than being the personification of good and evil, respectively, the books are bad. 
Pretty hard to argue with reasoning like that, if only because it is so nonlinear.  I am not even going to bother.  It simply isn't fair to fight someone (and a battle of wits is a fight, make no mistake) who is unarmed.
Take it from Pastor Ed, who has read them all:  The Harry Potter books are merely good fun and top-notch reading material for the youth of today.  Updated morality plays for a modern culture, free of any demonic influence or unholy alliances.  Bless you, my children - go forth and sin no more.
The Pastor from Wisconsin who panned them started out his diatribe by noting that he used to be a card-carrying witch (I'm not making this up).  That's why he claimed to have such insight into the evil lurking within the covers of the Harry Potter books.  Think about that a moment.  He says he used to be a witch.  Right.  Was he deluded then or is he deluded today?  Give me a break, boys and girls.  Wake up and smell the bullshit. 
Yes, there is evil in the world today and it is all around us.  Some of it manifests in small-minded demands for narrow thinking and book burning...from both ends of the political spectrum.  But very little is actually in books.  Books are ideas, words on paper.  It will not hurt you to be exposed to new ideas.  On the contrary.  The harm comes from being possessed by any idea, old or new, rather than possessing it.  Dig those ditches, kids.  Dig, dig, dig.
Besides, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys aren't pulling kids away from the TV sets anything like Harry does.  Just in the nick of time, too, because I was about to completely write off the current generation as being terminally illiterate.
Gah.  I hate putting out such a major plug for Rowling's work, since I don't think she is particularly gifted as a writer.  In particular, her usage of dialogue is clumsy.  But she has created an entirely new genre of children's books and that is significant.
We all have our limitations.  Obviously, I don't do subtle and sarcastic very well.


"I didn't say it would be easy.  I just said it would be the truth."
            - Morpheus

Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002

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