Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Reluctant Virtue of Severus Snape – Part 1

On July 21 of this year, the seventh and final book of the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling will be released. This book has the highest expectations of all the series, as fans of the “Boy Who Lived” will demand answers to their many remaining questions, not the least of which is the true allegiance of Severus Snape.

There have been four large groups formed with regard to that question; those who believe Severus Snape is basically evil, those who believe Severus Snape is basically good, those who believe Severus Snape is simply out for himself, and those who admit that they have not decided. No wonder, really. The six books written so far each show scenes and statements which at times indicate evil, at other times indicate goodness, at times indicate selfishness, and anyone who thinks about Rowling’s Potter stories understands that many times the true meaning is not what appears on the surface.

This article simply looks at the available evidence, laying out what we know to give us a few bits of solid indication for guidance. Some of the things I note here, I will have to show in more than one context, as they could serve more than one meaning on their own, but there are some points which may surprise folks if they consider them all together. Hopefully, this will be useful in clearing some of the fog.

The first thing to understand about the Severus Snape contentions, is that we have two distinctly separate periods of time to address; the period before Lord Voldemort returned in bodily fashion at the end of “Goblet of Fire” (GoF), and the period after that. The reason this is so, is because we have two clear evidences that Voldemort did not have allies until his recovery of a body, except for a dismal few. The evidence for that comes from two places – a prophecy by Sibyl Trelawney, and statements by Lord Voldemort himself.

First, the prophecy. We all know that Sibyl Trelawney has a reputation as a self-serving fraud. For instance, she predicted at the Yule dinner once that whoever was the first to rise from the table would be the next person of that group to die, but although Harry and Ron both rose at the same time, it turned out to be Dumbledore (who did not rise at all) who died, at the end of “Half-Blood Prince” (HBP). But on two occasions, Sibyl made predictions which Rowling clearly indicates are true. The first one is a prophecy we actually do not hear completely until the fifth book, but which is treated by the major characters as true, not least because several parts of it appear to have been confirmed. The other prophecy, later in the timeline of the books but which actually appears first, is presented in this way:

From the “Prisoner of Azkaban” (PoA), page 324:

But Professor Trelawney didn’t seem to hear him. Her eyes started to roll. Harry sat there in a panic. She looked as though she was about to have some sort of seizure. He hesitated, thinking of running to the hospital wing – and then Professor Trelawney spoke again, in the same harsh voice, quite unlike her own:


The prophecy went on to predict certain other events for the story which did come to pass, but this first line is the salient one for here, since it means that whether or not they were allied with Voldemort before, they are not his followers at this point. This does not make them good by default of course; in the course of the story we still see individuals who return to Voldemort, and even a few who remain devoted to him but were physically prevented from seeking him (the Lestranges, I mean). But in the context of this discussion, it means that whatever his mind and motives during the first three years of Harry’s years at Hogwarts, Severus Snape was not working for Voldemort during that time. He certainly could have joined Voldemort again after Voldemort summoned his Death Eaters in the graveyard scene in GoF, so this fact does not decide the question of Severus Snape’s loyalty, but it does close a number of doors to decide that question for the purpose of the resolution of the series. The events prior to GoF can shed light on the character of Severus Snape. But they do not speak to his allegiance; only the last three books can do so.

The next witness to this condition of fact is none other than Lord Voldemort himself. When he rose again in power at the end of GoF, Voldemort was not at all happy about how long it took the Death Eaters to get back to him, specifically that except for a single devoted follower who sought him out, a cowardly follower who came back to him after years of hiding, and a few loyal followers locked in prison, his “loyal” followers basically ran off and forgot about him. From GoF, pages 647-8:

”I smell guilt,” he said, “There is a stench of guilt upon the air.”

[ snip]

“I ask myself … why did this band of wizards never come to the aid of their master, to whom they swore eternal loyalty?”


“And I answer myself”, whispered Voldemort, “they must have believed me broken, they thought I was gone.”

That explains a lot, actually. And again, it does not commit Severus Snape to the side of Albus Dumbledore, nor even to himself, except that it does strike, if a small one, against the notion of his loyalty to Lord Voldemort.

So from this we have a separation of sequence, and may sort out the significant events not only by date, but also by what they affect. So far as Severus Snape is concerned, then, I divide our timeline into two sections: Before Voldemort’s Return (BVR), and After Voldemort’s Return (AVR). And since they weigh more strongly, I will first address the AVR events, those described in the last three books. I will discuss those significant events in my next post.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Adventures in Medicine Update


Today I got a good sense of what it is to be cattle. While the process made a sort of sense at the intellectual level, and it was a good thing to get several things out of the way at once, the experience was less than satisfying for me. Having promised to write a straightforward (if somewhat sporadic) journal about what it is to have cancer, today’s events require a mention, because if you should find yourself battling a serious disease, it is very likely that you too will encounter the same sort of obstacles.

I drove down to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Medical Center (or MDA) this morning for a series of tests, to track the progress of my tumor growth. Since the plans for my treatment have up to now assumed the continued indolent state of my tumors, these tests would serve as important indicators. I noted earlier this week to my wife, that my work required me to be in the office by 8 AM, but for these tests I would need to be present to check in at 7 AM. A small thing, but also an early warning that my ‘day off’ for the tests would hardly be a relaxing one.

The first obstacle, besides traffic in the area of the Medical Center (a number of hospitals all sit within blocks of each other, creating a location convenient for medical professionals, but decidedly unfriendly to patients and their families), is parking. There are several large parking garages, but they are expensive, difficult in places to navigate, and there never seem to be a lot of spaces available. To say nothing of the fact that everyone seems to be impatient, so that as you try to squeeze your car into a place you finally locate, cars are flying past you and quite nearly clipping your end off. Not the best way to begin the morning.

Once I made my way into the main building, I found my way easily enough to the 7th Floor, where the Gastro-Intestinal office is located. I then wasted a few minutes looking for someone with whom to check in, because the person who ought to have manned the front desk was absent. I found a nurse who helped me with al my paperwork and it went smoothly, but again I should remind the reader that several times in my appointments, I have found that the medical profession is not always altogether punctual.

There’s no reason to go too much into the details of my blood work, the x-rays, and my several CT Scans, except to observe that I spent six hours with what amount to a temporary faucet in my arm, to expedite the collection of blood and the insertion of an IV solution. In addition, when I showed up at the location for my CT Scan, I first discovered a collection of overworked and absolutely dispirited staff who quite clearly no longer thought of the patients as people, but very much like cattle. And when my name was finally called to go to the rooms for my actual scans, the nurse who greeted me and flushed my vein attachment took my paperwork and set it down in the wrong place, so that the staff forgot about me for 45 minutes. By itself this was no big deal, but in addition to the other events of the day, it struck me as just a bit less than professional, and another indicator of why we were referred to by our “patient number” as often as by our real names.

At this point I must hasten to note the truly professional standards to which MDA normally performs. The blood work was done well and quickly, even though my veins played hard to get. So too, the X-ray portion was smooth and seamless, as if it were no difficulty to navigate several dozen people an hour through that one office. I should be deficient and misleading if I did not compliment those offices on their fine work. The actual performance of the CT Scans by the technicians was thorough, professional in its detail and attention to the task, and I have every confidence that the results of these tests will be comprehensive and suitable to the needs of the doctors. I also would note that the nurse in the GI office who handled my paperwork was polite and fast, even though she was doing someone else’s work. On the whole, then, I accomplished what I set out to do, and most of the staff I met were courteous and professional. I would even go so far as to say that the problems I encountered were singular and limited to the individuals directly charged with the task, rather than a systemic problem. But it also needs to be observed, that even so fine a place as MD Anderson has areas where they fail at times, and where they could stand to pay attention to problems. And of course, we patients need to be aware that these aggravations will come along to bump us along the way.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The "Twenty-Eight"

The conviction of Mr. Libby has sent Liberals into fits of ecstasy, many of them now voicing hope that having convicted one innocent man, they can set their sights on greater targets. The proof of the last several years has shown that a Liberal can commit felonies without worry, while an innocent Conservative can be railroaded unless he is quite careful to watch his steps. Small wonder such worthy individuals as Condi Rice have declined to seek elected office, but that’s for another time. My point for this article is to address the condition of those remaining Americans who refuse to be swayed by media propaganda and the expedient lies from the likes of McCain and Reid and Pelosi, who stand behind their commitments and their elected President. A sneering Liberal in the comments one one site derisively tagged us as “the few, the proud, the 28%”, implying that President Bush only has a 28% Approval Rating. That is, like so much from the Left, a false claim and shows a bit of the malice which colors everything from the DNC and the MSM these days, but even so I will claim that label as a badge of honor. Not that I am as good as a United States Marine, to which the rest of that phrase alludes, yet there is something to the core of that comparison which defines a condition of honor which the miscreant missed in his chortling.

Some time back, I made a statement that Liberals could not be engaged productively in a discussion about National Security. In noting that fact now, I need to be clear that this does not disqualify people with Liberal perspectives, in political terms, from holding valid perspectives and presenting useful thoughts. I would go so far, and I know this will offend those who are easily offended, as to say that fewer Liberals than Conservatives can hold onto firm and consistent ethical positions across the spectrum. There is a reason for that, and one which Conservatives should consider.

Life works sometimes like a hot furnace, burning away dross and a fair amount of skin. In the process, many people quite naturally try to avoid the flames and protect their feelings at the cost of hardening assumptions into committed principles, which errors sometimes lead to greater cost. Also, there is a pervasive sense among many people that violence is always wrong, that the majority (or at least the appearance of a majority) is always right, or that we must subordinate the missions of the greatest among us to the will of the weakest among us. The obvious hypocrisy that such people never hesitate to call the police for their own protection, that they will try to change the definitions of victory whenever they realize they have lost a battle, and that they will put their personal ideology ahead of even the US Constitution whenever they stand to lose something, is a matter which such folks reject out of hand. This does not mean that the obvious is true, but rather that we must test claims and assumptions, in that very fire of consequence and cost I mentioned. Defeat has a cost, but it teaches lessons as well. And between 1932 and 1994, the Conservatives in America were forced to learn many such lessons, but they resulted in Ronald Reagan and the 1994 Revolution. In that same time, many Liberals suffered no losses of consequence, and so they never firmed their principles into anything stronger than the personal character of individual leaders, whose substance gradually fell to the mockery of “leadership” we see today in the Left.

It is not really hard to see what happened to the Left; just look at what passes for their leadership. They are, to the last person, wealthy and obsessed with their personal privilege, convinced not only that they are entitled to special privileges but that this is the natural order of things. The aristocracy in pre-Revolution France was never so arrogant. And this, be sure, is also a problem for some on the Right. When in the past two decades has John McCain done hard labor? Could you even imagine Chuck Hagel working a 40-hour week for a paycheck? Does anyone seriously believe that John Boehner has done his own driving, his own taxes, or mowed his own yard in the last ten years? One problem Republicans had in the 2006 elections had nothing to do with President Bush, but everything to do with how out-of-touch Majority Leader Frist and Speaker Hastert were with the average American. They had gotten too insulated, and became convinced that they did not need to answer to anyone, and so found themselves – in the end – rejected by the people they forgot about, who turned out to matter.

Conservatives and Liberals who are elected to office are often protected by the system in place, and by groups which act to protect and promote their special interests. But the Conservatives have fewer such crony groups, largely because the Democrats had more time in power to attract such people. The largest unions, for example, came to support Democrats not only because the Democrats molded their legislative priorities to match union demands, but because the Democrats/Liberals were clearly in power for so many decades, and so paying money and privilege to the Left was the way to prime the pump for payback to the unions.

Conservatives also benefited from the fact that their support groups were more willing to re-examine their ideals and goals, and many of their groups were committed to justice far ahead of expediency. This is one reason why the military gradually became stronger and stronger supporters of Republicans; not because the GOP was perfect by any means, but because the Democrats were less and less committed to the ideals to which soldiers swear fealty. The same for religious groups, who often tested their support for a candidate by how well his voting record was aligned with their ideals. This meant of course, that sometimes Conservatives lost ground because they could not lock in support for groups they needed, but it provides an essential moral compass which is missing from the Left.

Doing the right thing is not often easy, and it often comes at a cost. So it is hardly surprising that not everyone can commit to it, or that such commitment would be sporadic even among well-meaning people. And it is not surprising that so many, on the Left and the Right, may find it easy to fall back to habit rather than carefully consider their course and commitments, and then stand by them for the duration of the promise. The media and the Liberals have done a rather effective job of preventing folks from hearing what President Bush has done right in Iraq, or in the Economy, or in Judicial Reform, or in so many other areas of his job. Lies and slander are the currency of the day for so many who pretend to hold Truth as their ideal. When an arrogant liar like Gore can be lauded and lionized for false claims and hypocritical behavior regarding his own demands, while the President’s clear policies are mis-stated and mocked if they are considered at all, it is no surprise that many folks would fall away and say they do not approve of him, even when the other party provides no effective answer for how they would meet the challenges of the nation.

I stand with the President, as a Republican and a Conservative, and as I always have. I do not change my mind because the weather gets rough. And unlike many who will lie and equivocate later when asked about their support and commitment, I will always be able to look querants straight in the eye and confirm that I never wavered. If few stand with me, those few have passed a test most people fear to even face.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Democrats and Justice

Well, now it's official.

A Republican accused of a crime can expect Justice from a D.C. jury in 2007, to about the same degree a black man accused of a crime in Alabama could expect Justice in 1907.