"I say to you all, once again - in the light of Lord Voldemort’s return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.
It is my belief - and never have I so hoped that I am mistaken - that we are all facing dark and difficult times. Some of you in this Hall have already suffered directly at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Many of your families have been torn asunder. A week ago, a student was taken from our midst.
Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.”
-Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, 2000)
Emma and I were listening to this book on CD this afternoon, and this passage jumped out at me like it never has before. It takes place at the end of the fourth Harry Potter book, when Voldemort is newly returned to power and Cedric Diggory has just been murdered. Harry is traumatized and the school is in shock.
Cedric was killed, not because he was a threat or powerful or anything other than ordinary, but because he was just in the way. Voldemort saw no value in him, marginalized him, and decided that he wasn't worth having around. Voldemort didn't even kill Cedric himself, he ordered one of his followers, Wormtail, to do the actual deed.
When a leader draws violence, hatred, disrespect, and discord from his followers - condones it, orders it, encourages it, and demonstrates it in his personal conduct - then that person is no fit leader at all.
On the flip side, people can't follow blindly or justify their behavior by pointing to the words, or even actions, of a person in power. As a society, we have the power to shape what happens over the next few years. Because yes, Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. But it can only spread if we let it.