Saturday, May 1, 2010

Harry Potter and the Disability Invisibility Cloak

*Copying and pasting things into Blogger from MS Word is hell. Please forgive any font/formatting incongruities. Let me know if this causes problems for anyone and I'll try to fix it.*

I want to make something clear: Harry's invisibility cloak IS NOT, I repeat NOT, a direct metaphor for the experience of disability. It is a metaphor for the feeling of being invisible that disability gives you. As disabled people, we are routinely ignored - by "normies", by the media, and by pretty much everyone else. That is why we are still fighting so hard for our rights, twenty years after the ADA. That is why disablism still occurrs, every single day, even though we are such a large minority and one that more than likely will include a lot of those disablists one day. We are invisible. But that stops today. BADD is a chance for all of us to step, wobble, crutch, or roll into the light and reveal ourselves. We will no longer be ignored. Enjoy my BADD post - forgive me if it's slightly incoherent, bits of it were written at 11:00 last night after a long day and a VERY long week. Also, this is fairly unedited except for little bits here and there, so forgive any mistakes. Happy BADD to you all!

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2010

It started one morning, when Harry James Potter, also known as The Boy Who Lived, rolled over and fell out of bed with a loud thump.

Through half-closed eyes, he heard Ron ask Seamus: “Did you hear something?” Seamus shook his head. “Not a thing.”

At breakfast, Hermione and Ron didn’t acknowledge him, not even to say “Pass the butter, please. Neville even sat on top of him and then seemed faintly puzzled when his rear end didn’t touch the bench.

In Transfiguration, Harry was having trouble Transfiguring his dung beetle. He squashed his beetle and asked Professor Mcgonagall for a new one, but she didn’t seem to hear him. Unsurprising, really, considering the way his day was going. He raised his voice and asked again, and only then did she turn around with a somewhat distant expression on her face. “Oh, Potter. You need a new dung beetle? Right, I’ll go get you one.” Yet he never got a new dung beetle, and he wondered why everyone around him promptly got new beetles when they squashed theirs, and why his was the only tabletop empty.

Out in the corridor, Harry tripped over one of Fred and George’s fake wands that had been left lying around. He fell hard onto the unforgiving floor, his books flying out of his arms. But despite the rather dramatic crash, no one stopped to help. Students rushed busily to their classes, and not one of them slowed down. Some stepped over him; some of them weren’t even that kind and stepped on him. His books were flung in all directions, most left with dirty footprints on the covers and crumpled pages torn. Groaning, Harry hauled himself to his feet and slowly gathered his books while the corridor cleared. Only then did he see Dumbledore standing serenely at the end of a long corridor Harry had never noticed before, next to a mirror in an old, ornate frame. Dumbledore beckoned to him slowly with one long, crooked finger, and for some reason, Harry felt compelled to obey.

“Professor, what’s wrong?” Harry asked desperately, when he got to the end of the corridor. “Why can’t anyone see me?”

“Why, because you’re invisible, of course!” Dumbledore indicated the mirror with an amused gesture. “Have a look and see for yourself.”

Harry stared into the mirror; he could just make out the faintest outline of his reflection hidden underneath the folds of his invisibility cloak. He tried pulling the cloak off. Then he tried shrugging, tearing, and ripping the cloak off. Nothing worked. Finally he sat back with a resigned sigh.

“I realize, of course, that this must be extraordinarily difficult for you.” Dumbledore said gently. “Growing up as the Boy Who Lived, constantly in the limelight, hasn’t made it any easier.”

“But Professor,” Harry pressed, “surely there must be some way to get the cloak off?”

With a flick of Dumbledore’s wand, a lavishly decorated armchair appeared next to the mirror. Dumbledore took his time settling himself comfortably into it before he replied.

“Yes, Harry, there is. But it is a long, slow, and unforgiving process. As we have already seen with Lord Voldemort’s return, people are not keen on acknowledging the existence of somebody they prefer not to deal with. You will be made to feel like a problem and an inconvenience at every turn. Your needs will be routinely marginalized and dismissed, because you require a little extra ingenuity to have your needs met. Sometimes, you will even feel like you are not fully human.”

“Why then, should you even bother to fight? If all your attempts at living are met with indifference by some and outright hostility by others, wouldn’t it be better to just lock yourself in Gryffindor tower and throw away the key? Or better yet, succumb to all the voices telling you your life is not worth living and let yourself die, little by little?”

“You will think all these things and more in your darkest, angriest moments, when all the hope seems to have gone from your life. Sometimes you will wish you weren’t invisible, that you could easily throw away that cloak without a second thought. But that invisibility cloak is as much a part of your identity as your scar is, and denying that part of your identity would be neither right nor productive. And along your travels, you will meet others who are on the same quest. That is the important thing, Harry. You must always try to remember that you are never alone.”

There was a rippling of the air at Harry’s feet. One by one, others pulled off their own invisibility cloaks and revealed themselves to him. Young and old, male and female, black and white, people of all races, ages, and genders shed their invisibility cloaks and nodded in acknowledgment to him. With one smooth, fluid movement, the line of people linked hands, leaving a spot empty in the center. Without quite knowing how or why, Harry realized that spot was for him. Slowly, he took his place in the center of the lineup and felt strong hands grip his on both sides. Together, they walked proudly down the corridor, and here, amongst all these people who knew what it was like to be invisible, Harry James Potter, also known as the Boy Who Lived, started his new life.


Adelaide Dupont said...

Enjoyed reading this 'new' Harry Potter tale.

The Invisibility Cloak being a metaphor was outside of my range of theories.

CapriUni said...

Very nicely done.

I particularly liked the elaborate chair Dumbledore conjured for himself.

Cara Liebowitz said...

@CapriUni -

The idea of Dumbledore conjuring an elaborate armchair was entirely and completely spontaneous. I didn't even know I was going to write it until I wrote it, if that makes sense. But it seemed like a very Dumbledore-ish thing to do.

Okay, I'm a Harry Potter Geek :-) said...

Dumbledore conjured a chair like that for himself during Harry's trial early in the 5th book.

Madame Croissant said...

I love this. I recommended your blog to a couple of my friends because I thought they ought to read it. You're a really good writer.

rickismom said...