Sunday, October 2, 2005

Truth, Justice and the American Way

I just finished reading a story. Well ok I’ll admit it- a comic book – a Superman comic book. It was published in January of 2001, well before the events of 9/11 that fundamentally changed the United States of America.

Superman has always been a fighter for good. Unlike many superheroes like Batman, Wolverine and other vigilantes, he has always tried to work within the system and not around it. He has been called a “boy scout” and unrealistic because of this, but its one of the things I most respect about the character. From the beginning Superman has been one of, if not the most powerful beings on his Earth. He chose not to use that power to enforce HIS will upon people; he chose to use it to serve the people and THEIR will.

The saying goes,”absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In Superman we have a character that defies this truism and instead voluntarily limits himself to be ruled by the will of the people (the government of the US.) Instead of hunting down Lex Luthor and tossing him out into space once and for all, he lets our system of justice rule the day. Does Luthor keep coming back? Yes. And Superman keeps bringing him to justice. Is it hard to keep fighting the bad guys day after day when you could just end it? I’m sure it is.

Being the good guy is hard. You have to follow rules, you have to listen to other people’s opinions, and you have to lose sometimes even when you know you could have won by cheating or looking the other way just this once. If being good was easy; everybody would be wearing a white hat. The guys wearing the black hats have more fun. They get to do whatever they want. They don’t like the way you look they kill you. They want your car? They take it and you are lucky they didn’t kill you. They don’t care. They just do. They feel they have the right to do anything they can get away with.

Since 9/11 the United States has slowly been losing its iconic white hat. We used to be kind of the Superman of the world at least symbolically, and now we are turning into a vigilante at best, the evil black hat at worst. I’m not naïve. I know that the U.S. government has always done things that are not 100% above board and law abiding. But it used to be that the government would have to hide the extraordinary rendition, the illegal wire tapping or the unlimited detainment of people under a haze of plausible deniability. If they didn’t the People would rise up, expose the problems and they would have to at least release some people or stop some project or another. I guess what I mean to say when someone ferreted out that the government was breaking the law – we the People had some recourse to stop it. Now, the government pretty much just DOES stuff and if they get caught they say “So What?”

I liked the fact that we were Superman, and I think we are in danger of going past the point where we can never get out white hat back again.

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