One of the most surprising scenes in the new Harry Potter book occurs in the chapter “The Bribe” (pages 210-215)–a scene which reflects our sharply anti-father political environment. (As an aside, even though J.K. Rowling is an avowed single mother advocate, in the Harry Potter series she mercifully spares us any nonsense on the glories of single motherhood.)  

The scene involves Harry and Lupin, a former teacher at the school who is also a werewolf. Lupin is married to Tonks, and Tonks is pregnant with their child. Lord Voldemort (the devil in the Harry Potter series) has risen and is taking over the Wizarding World, slaughtering all who resist, as well as many innocents. All those in the Wizarding World who don’t have the proper bloodlines are being rounded up and destroyed.

Harry and his two faithful friends, Hermione and Ron, are holed up in his godfather’s abandoned house, planning their next move. Dumbledore, the deceased school headmaster, has assigned Harry a crucial task–he needs to destroy Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes. The Horcruxes encase parts of Voldemort’s soul, and as long as they survive, Voldemort cannot be killed. Given the other casualties (Sirius Black, Mad-Eye Moody, Dumbledore, etc.) and defections to Voldemort, Lupin is one of the very few able, adult wizards available to help Harry.

Lupin has placed Tonks in a safe house under her parents’ protection, and has gone to Harry to offer his assistance with the project. Harry instead berates him for “abandoning” Tonks, and calls him a “coward”–language which could’ve been taken straight out of the mouths of father-bashing feminists and child support enforcement officials. Shamed, Lupin returns to Tonks and stays in the safe house with her, later gaining Harry’s (and apparently Rowling’s) approval.

This is absurd. Voldemort is winning, and there are few experienced Wizards left to resist him. If Harry does not succeed in the mission to which the late Dumbledore has assigned him, Voldemort will reign supreme, resulting in the deaths of millions. Lupin volunteers to put his life on the line to help Harry and is instead supposed to stay holed-up with Tonks while the fate of their world hangs in the balance. For offering to help Harry, he’s a “coward”?

Harry successfully shames him into returning to Tonks, and Lupin (more or less) sits things out there while the decisive struggle against Voldemort and his forces is being waged.

In addition to being reminiscent of standard modern father-bashing, the scene also brings to mind the famous incident involving then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2000, around the birth of his child. His wife, Cherie Blair, publicly shamed her husband into taking paternity leave to help her care for their baby.

Now, I’m a long-time supporter of dads as primary caregivers, and I recommend it whenever possible. I was a stay-at-home dad for the first three years of my daughter’s life (from the time she was six weeks old), and the time we spent together then was absolutely the greatest experience of my life. But Tony Blair had more important things to do–he had a country of 60 million people to run, and countless people depending on him. I think it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t politically possible for him to say he had more important things to do than take paternity leave., Glenn Sacks

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