Every First World Millennial and parent of same knows the story of Harry Potter, the Sorting Hat, and four wizard houses of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Although a great story, it’s possible the concept of houses has now crept unwittingly into other areas of our lives where we sort ourselves into opposing teams rather than recognizing our commonality.
Few in Potterland ever define themselves simply as Hogsworth alum. In the modern political arena, the challenging analogy is to try to define ourselves as Americans rather than sorting ourselves into the political houses of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Green Party advocates.
If this seems like a far-fetched analogy, consider how many immediately named Trump post-election as “he who should not be named,” the common label for Potter’s Villainous Voldemort. The Millennials who made Bernie a household name and almost viable candidate, are the same ones who will shape the next election as well so perhaps it’s not crazy to see our current world through a Potter world lens.
Consider the 2008 book by Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing entitled The Big Short: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. The subtitle tells it all – that self-sorting is counter-effective in building a great nation based on heterogeneous thoughts, cultures, and ideas. As Americans continue to sort ourselves into like-minded groups and communities, we continue to grow intolerance for our fellow citizens by viewing those outside our homogeneous spheres as “other.”
…the benefit that ought to come with having a variety of opinions is lost to the righteousness that is the special entitlement of homogenous groups. We all live with the results: balkanized communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible; a growing intolerance for political differences that has made national consensus impossible; and politics so polarized that Congress is stymied.
In the midst of this divide is a small, regrowing center with the non-sexy name of No Labels.org, a bi-partisan group of citizens seeking to find consensus on major issues. Their tag line is “Stop Fighting. Start Fixing.” The group doesn’t yet have the panache of a Bernie to create passionate advocacy, but the goal is effectiveness over passion.
Their counterpart in Congress is a group of politicians calling themselves The Problem Solvers Caucus. It started in 2010, before the Trump era, and now has 40+ members evenly divided between political houses. In order to join the group, each representative must find a colleague from the other side of the House to join together, or neither is allowed affiliation. The cost of entry is a simple demonstration of an ability to join together.
The hopeful group is seeking to follow in the footsteps of their forbearers — those who knew how to reach across the aisle to compromise and get things done. Sadly, none are yet Millennials and they may not appeal to the Millennial generation brought up on Potter’s houses.
Related Post: Is It Time For A New Political Party? What Should It Be?
The challenge now before all of us seems to be to somehow UNSORT ourselves. The question is: How?
Brene´Brown proposes some solutions in her own, just released book Braving the Wilderness, which we’ll review in a future post. For now, perhaps each of us can stop defining ourselves along party lines; conservative/liberal lines; blue/red state lines; or even racial and religious lines. Perhaps we can start defining ourselves simply as Americans and see where that may take us. It’s a small start, but maybe a start nonetheless. It seemed to work for the Founding Fathers, and might just work again.
P.S. The Hogsworth motto above of Draco Dormiens Nunquam Tifillandus means “Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon.” The question unanswered is: Once tickled, what can be done? Perhaps we’ll all have to wait for the upcoming 2018 Broadway play called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to find out. Not a promising title, but one can stay hopeful nonetheless.