Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lessons From a Comic Book: A Civil Man's Handshake

Art by Gary Frank
Back in 2000, DC Comics ran a storyline in which Lex Luthor, Superman's arch-enemy, ran for and successfully won the presidency of the United States of America.  This incarnation of Luthor was a corrupt, manipulative, and follicley-challenged business tycoon who hornswoggles the American public with big promises of change just to fuel his inflated ego and insatiable quest for power.

Only in a comic book, right?  Sigh.

Throughout the story of Luthor's campaign, Superman remains relatively silent, confident that the American people will see Luthor for the charlatan that he is.  Much to the Man of Steel's surprise, Luthor wins in a fair and decisive election.  And, Superman is faced with the reality of seeing his biggest and most persistent adversary ascend to the highest office in the land.

What does Superman do, you ask?  How does the greatest superhero ever created, the first among firsts, react to the unbelievable news that someone he knows to be completely unfit and undeserving has successfully become leader of one of the most powerful countries on Earth?

Very simply, he flies down to the victory rally in Metropolis while Luthor is giving his acceptance speech.  When he lands on the stage where Luthor stands at a podium, the crowd goes silent, waiting to see what Superman will do.  Without hesitation, Superman extends a hand to Luthor and congratulates him on his win.

However, it doesn't end there.  Superman didn't just fly off into the night, resigned to the fact that such a horrible man was president of his country.  Instead, he opted to accept Luthor as president in order to preserve the integrity of our system of government but with the determination that he would keep a close eye (in his case, an X-ray eye) on President Luthor and take appropriate and necessary action to keep him from causing harm.

One of the biggest WTF covers in the history of comics
Superman didn't disrupt the flow of our government with violence or force, although he was more than capable of it.  And, he didn't just pack up and move to the Fortress of Solitude out of frustration over an American public swayed by a man he knew to be rotten to the core.  But, he did act.  He did keep working to make people safe and protect them from those who did not have their best interests at heart.  He didn't stop being Superman.

Reflecting on this and drawing the obvious parallels to our current real world situation, I endeavor to be Superman.  I endeavor to believe in our system of government, which permits peaceful protest but doesn't bow to violent acts or hateful rhetoric.  I endeavor to speak out against injustice even when it makes me and those around me uncomfortable to hear the truth and possibly face our own fears and prejudices.  I endeavor to protect and support those who need it.

I endeavor to be Superman.

Even though my inclination is to go straight-up Batman and use my words like razor-edged batarangs, I will endeavor to be Superman.

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