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August 15, 2011 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-08-15

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Monday, August 15, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


Bigger than Jesus



My sister is the smartest girl I
know, but even she continues to
read "Harry Potter" long after the
series has anything meaningful to
say about life as she knows it. It's
in this way that Harry Potter is
like the Bible, yet a good number
of people my age question or even
mock the divinity of Jesus while
insisting, loudly and with passion,
that the books about the boy wiz-
ard are the real Gospels, the books
to read if you had but one choice.
I'm not exaggerating. Who do
you think wrote the following?
"At page 699 of 'Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows,' I had
to put down the book. My face
was already soaked with tears,
my body convulsing with hys-
terical sobs, but on page 699, I
had to drop everything and run
to the bathroom because I was
sure I was going to be sick." The
author, whose convulsions and
upset stomach are due presum-
ably to the emotionally traumatic
effects of the story and not, say,
food poisoning, is a senior arts
editor at this publication (Saying
goodbye to a 'Harry Potter' child-
hood, 7/4/11.) Just like religion,
the Harry Potter affliction doesn't
spare the educated.
But why this obsession? Why
does my sister reread and reread
and reread the series as if she's
studying for a Hogwarts Place-
ment Exam? Why do senior arts
editors convulse and sob and suf-
fer as if possessed by He Who
Must Not Be Named?
Because the books tell a fairly
compelling story. Not a highly
original or perfect story unblem-
ished by cliches or plotholes, but an
exciting one that's easy to devour,
easy to fall in love with, easy to
consume. I remember our family
purchasing a copy of "Harry Pot-
ter and the Goblet of Fire" and my
ten year-old self finishing the 734-
page book in one day. Oh, it was
easy. It was fun. But it didn't really
matter. I could read 700 pages of
"Harry Potter" and then get back
to the books that were relevant,
like the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the
Galaxy" series. I could get back to
reading stories that actually spoke
to me about that incurable ailment
- the human condition - rather
than stories about a good boy bat-
tling an evil wizard.
I can almost hear the indig-
nant snorts and see the eyes roll

back. I can almost sense the pulses
quicken as the believers stew with
righteous anger. What about the
themes of love and loss, they cry!
What about doing what's right in
the face of insurmountable odds?
Did we not grow up with this boy?
Are we not,in the words ofthe pre-
viously quoted author, "the 'Harry
Potter' generation, the grade-
schoolers who are starting to head
out into the real world with the
comfort of Hogwarts tucked away
inside our minds?"
I used to fight against the idea
that the Harry Potter series was
the literature of my generation
with all the fury of an English
teacher whose class insists that
the period is an unnecessary
punctuation mark. How offensive,
I thought, to declare the late nine-
ties and the aughts as belonging to
Harry Potter - to actually suggest
that the books had anything to do
with the real issues going on in our
adolescence, our country and our
world. How repulsive were those
who declared that Harry Potter
was alongside us the whole way,
how oddly subservient. How blind
and silly and stupid, to hold a fan-
tasy series with mundane themes
in the highest regard.
Yet in a perverse way, I suppose
they are the books of our genera-
tion. We know the magical and
the ordinary all too well. At the
same time that we revel in the
fantasy of Facebook, of seeing the
private lives of friends and new
acquaintances, we slowly realize
how depressingly bland statuses
are, how trite and boring our per-
sonal information is, how cliche
all our friends' favorite sayings
are. The effect of this technology
is to make a digital shrine to our
collective mediocrity. We live in
a world undreamt of just a few
generations ago and many of us
take advantage of it by staring at
useless information for hours. I
still have to explain the scale of
the universe to many of my peers
and I don't know if they even
care. Ours is the "Harry Potter"
generation to the extent that we
occupy so much of our time with
stuff that just doesn't matter, and
Harry, no matter how much we
enjoyed him growing up, belongs
in that category.
Will Grundler is a senior
editorial page editor.

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In this country, we often
pride in our toughness. As far a
tice goes, that means that we t
avoid being too
soft on crime.
But what does
"soft on crime"
really mean? The
phrase is often
used to accuse
people or institu-
tions of not giv- ANNA
ing out adequate CLEMENT
punishment or
forsaking their
responsibility to crime victim
giving offenders more lenient
tences than they may deserve
violent crimes in particular, th
tice system is expected to give
harsh retribution to appease vic
and sympathetic onlookers.
While the hard on crime and
on crime duality maybe morally
tinent, it may be detrimental t
effectiveness of crime preventi
interests lie in reducing recidi
and cutting crime in general,
arguing over the harshness of
ishments is not the correct mir
to evaluate the penal system an
alternative framework is nece
to examine punishment.
A July 6 article called "An
Falls on Criminal Justice Spend
in The Crime Report, a website
reports on the criminal justice
tem, discussed Republican lea
proposals for drastic spending
on criminal justice programs.
plan includes slashing the Con
nity Oriented Policing Services
all of the funding for the detenti
illegal immigrants. Funding w
be partially cut for juvenile ju
programs and the State Crir
Alien Assistance Program, w
places emphasis on local immig
related crimes. In short, comn
ties would become less releva

Soft on crime
take addressing crime as those respon- on mo
S jus- sibilities would be taken over by ing re
ry to expanding large-scale programs are fin
such as the Federal Bureau of Inves- their r
tigation and the Federal Bureau of Such s
Prisons. ative n
What will this do for our nation? to addr
Let's think about this scenario on inflict
the small scale. In a city or an insti- easier
tution there are variations of sizes in ods in
programs that deal with crime and resolut
behavior. For example, at the Uni- larger-
S versity there are multiple methods plexity
of dealing with campus misbehav- unders
ior; the police are often involved, as
is by are campus authorities. In addition
sen- to those institutional methods, we
For have a few alternatives like media- (
e jus- tion services between students, fac-
e out ulty and staff and similar services m
ctims between residence hall staff and
residents. These programs are our
d soft version of community justice and
'per- follow similar philosophies to those
o the of some of the programs that are
on. If being reduced and cut. In
vism In the dorms, cases that are dealt reminc
then with through the mediation process tancec
pun- often conclude with students sign- and re
ndset ing promises for repairing the harms on cri
nd an they caused. In substance abuse offend
ssary cases, students often do a combina- retribs
tionofreparationactivities, including well b
Axe a small educational task that encom- the go
ding" passes learning about harms done to longr
that the body, as well as another task that compl
sys- would normally be the responsibility in whi
ders' of the resident advisor. This is done in not ir
cuts orderto both compensate the RAs for ing of<
The their time spent dealing with the case ativer
nmu- and to involve the residential com- on crir
s and munity in an activity that is an alter- be a re
on of native to party culture. the me
vould If crimes or misbehavior are justice
stice addressed through the larger cam- solutio
ninal pus conduct system, then they intima
vhich usually leave a mark on the stu- its effe
grant dents' records. This isn't the case
nuni- in the housing mediation program.
nt in Though students sometimes take

re responsibility by perform-
parative projects, once they
ished they are relinquished of
esponsibility for the offense.
systems fall under the restor-
model since their objective is
ress harms caused rather than
revenge of any sort. It is much
to follow restorative meth-
community-based conflict-
tion programs rather than in
-scale ones because the com-
y of problems cannot be fully
stood in large contexts.
]tting crime
lust go beyond
short, someone needs to
id our leaders of the impor-
of community in cutting crime
solving conflicts. Being "soft
me," if that means punishing
ers less harshly than a purely
utive system would allow may
e the more effective avenue if
al is minimizing crime in the
run. Punishment performed
etely outside of the scenario
ch the offense took place does
still as direct an understand-
consequentiality as do restor-
measures. The duality of "hard
me" and "soft on crime" may
d herring, distractingus from
ost important concern for the
system: finding an effective
sn to crime, which requires an
te knowledge of the act and
ct on others.
Anna Clements can be reached
at asiobhan@umich.edu.

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