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[personal profile] miramira
We interrupt this exchange letter repository/otherwise dormant journal for actual content and fandom commentary. Because while I thought my interest in the Potterverse had largely given way to other passions, apparently I have feelings on the latest Pottermore updates on the history of magic in North America the United States. Oh, do I ever.

The sad part is, there's stuff here I want to like. The basic idea of getting to look at how magic is practiced outside the UK is something I've wanted for a long time, and I've done some playing around of my own with the notion of a Muggle group as fanatically devoted to wiping out wizards as the Death Eaters are to their cause. But the rest of it?

I'm not going to get into the bungling of Native American culture, as others far more qualified than I have done so far more eloquently already. I'm also not going to try and figure out how wizards could've established a "Congress of the United States of America" nearly a century before the colonies had even started seriously thinking of themselves in those terms, let alone functioning as a unit, because then I start alternating between gritting my teeth and randomly spouting lyrics from 1776 and Hamilton, and have to go lie down for a while.

So instead, let's start with Salem. While historical sources back Rowling up that the witch trials were more driven by local politics and cultural clashes than fear of the devil, Salem's lasting contribution to American mythology is a reminder of the dangers of paranoia and the virtues of skepticism. If anything, it would have made American wizards and witches safer in the long run: initially by making people doubt any witchcraft accusations, and later by making magic seem like a harmless fiction.

That's all minor, though, compared to the problem that is Rappaport's Law. If Salem (where people did die) wasn't enough to close off the community entirely, why would one lovesick girl and her crackpot object of affection panic everyone into total lockdown? Because important locations were compromised? Then change the location! If the wizarding world's goal is to maintain secrecy and not the ability to hide in plain sight, then the wizarding capital shouldn't be in New York City. It should be in Ohio, which would've been the wild frontier at the time. Or Wyoming, which is still relatively underpopulated. Or somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (although if we're talking about San Francisco or Portland, that would've evolved into the latter strategy by now).

Or heck, have no fixed institutional structures at all. I know I said I wasn't going to get into the MACUSA issue, but the Constitution was still a new and not entirely trusted concept in 1790. The wizarding community could easily have decided against the notion of a strong federal government, and handled all but the most important issues on a local basis. Maybe eventually, you'd get enough demand and a big enough population to support regional schools of magic in certain areas, but why hold official meetings in the same easily targeted place when you can Apparate anywhere, or talk things out by Floo?

Speaking of big enough concentrations...if wizards and Muggles (sorry; I'm not calling them No-Majs) were strictly forbidden from marrying, then either the wizarding population would've become dangerously inbred within a matter of generations, or the bloodlines would've needed to be replenished by immigrants. Except that as Rowling herself acknowledges, purebloods wouldn't have been driven to leave Europe for our Scourer-ridden land by anything other than the greatest desperation. The newcomers would likely have had Muggle relatives and a less xenophobic outlook, particularly if they came from cultures where magic was not automatically seen as evil. In short, Rappaport's Law would probably have lasted about as long as Prohibition, and been about as effective.

And then, of course, there's the issue Rowling decided not to touch on at all, to the point she seems to have skipped over an entire century to avoid dealing with it. Which was probably wise of her, except that it further exposes that her sense of important touchstones in American history is shaky at best. Also, I can at least see why African and African-American wizards might have been strong proponents of closing ranks and keeping them closed, although I don't know how far I want to get into speculating to what extent they could rely on the support of the rest of the wizarding community.

Ultimately, I think Rowling's been tripped up by two major issues: unfamiliarity with her subject matter, and sense of scale. You can't reduce America to a single mindset any more than you can reduce Native Americans to a single shared set set of beliefs. Not unless you're talking about a group so small as to be unsustainable, and I don't think that's what she was going for.

Before this, I was starting to get excited about the new movie, and having new canon again. Now? Well, I guess I'll just have to wait for it. But I'm predicting a lot of AUs and canon divergence. Heck, I might have to get started on some myself, before this saps my remaining enthusiasm for it.
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April 2017


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