Anyone who is a fan of Harry Potter has heard of the Imperius Curse. It is a curse that when cast on a person will put that person completely under the control of whoever gave the curse. This person now under the Imperius will do whatever the person controlling him or her wishes (while the person under the curse believes he or she is still in control).
I can only guess that a massive Imperius Curse has taken over the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government in the past year. There are really too many examples to list but the latest of the extension of tax cuts to the very wealthy plus the denial of the DREAM Act seem to point to forces at play that can have nothing to do with plain common sense or the slightest moral sensibility.
Instead we are faced with arguments that distort facts and place a new “cultural” purity on the table. What makes America “America” and Americans “Americans” is a very narrow list of credentials that is defined by a few, a very few from a very conservative slant. In this America the wealthy are victims, migrants are terrorists, corporations are people with first amendment rights, the Gulf is clean and war is a state of being necessary for true patriotism.
Clearly a case of the Imperius Curse.
In the Harry Potter stories a person can resist the curse. The curse and its impact of erasing personhood and replacing it with a mindless following of commands can be prevented. To resist the curse, one must show great moral fortitude and courage. The person resisting the curse must believe so strongly in what they know to be right that the pressure to give up critical thought and moral inquiry can be overcome.
Gandhi, while not a reader of Harry Potter, had a similar concept only he called it soul-force. Soul-force is the force within us that gives us the strength and courage to stand up, no matter the consequences, for what we believe in and to struggle for those beliefs. This is not a private struggle for Gandhi or indeed Potter. It is a public one taking on the cultural sphere that roots the lies that are the mark of the Imperius Curse. We must not only believe but act and act publicly to create a wider space for more and more people to engage soul-force and resist the Imperious Curse.
In our final week of Advent it seems most appropriate to spend some time with soul-force. To look into the heart of the longest night of the year, December 21, and imagine what should welcome the dawn. Undocumented youth allowed to flourish? Millions of new, well paid jobs for the unemployed? The end of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?
What would greet your dawn? What calls on your soul-force?