Although the concept of the superhero is as old as the Epic of Gilgamesh, superheroes as we know them today are a product of American history. DC’s Superman and Wonder Woman fought in World War II, as did Marvel’s Captain America, Bucky, the original Human Torch, and Namor, a.k.a. the Sub-Mariner.
(Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with Namor just yet. Once upon a time, most people outside the world of comic book fandom would never have recognized the characters from Avengers: Endgame. I’m still blown away by the fact that Groot and Rocket Raccoon are pretty much household names these days.)
I think that superheroes represent the best of American ideals, and that one of the best representations of superheroes is this little essay that’s been around the internet for a number of years. I’m posting it here as my way of celebrating Independence Day. Enjoy!
A common leftist critique of superhero comics is that they are inherently anti-collectivist, being about small groups of individuals who hold all the power, and the wisdom to wield that power.
I don’t disagree with this reading. I don’t think it’s inaccurate. Superheroes are their own ruling class, the concept of the übermensch writ large.
But it’s a sterile reading. It examines superhero comics as a cold text, and ignores something that I believe in fundamental, especially to superhero storytelling: the way people engage with text. Not what it says, but how it is read.
The average comic reader doesn’t fantasize about being a civilian in a world of superheroes, they fantasize about being a superhero. One could charitably chalk this up to a lust for power, except for one fact…
The fantasy is almost always the act of helping people. Helping the vulnerable, with no reward promised in return.
Being a century into the genre, we’ve seen countless subversions and deconstructions of the story.
But at its core, the superhero myth is about using the gifts you’ve been given to enrich the people around you, never asking for payment, never advancing an ulterior motive.
We should (and do) spend time nitpicking these fantasies, examining their unintended consequences, their hypocrisies.
But it’s worth acknowledging that the most eduring childhood fantasy of the last hundred years hasn’t been to become rich. Superheroes come from every class (don’t let the MCU fool you).
The most enduring fantasy is to become powerful enough to take the weak under your own wing. To give, without needing to take.
So yes, the superhero myth, as a text, isn’t collectivist. But that’s not why we keep coming back to it.
That’s not why children read it.
We keep coming back to it to learn one simple lesson…
The best thing we can do with power IS GIVE IT AWAY.
Here’s the Rachel Maddow piece that the graphic above comes from:
Here’s an unsurprising response to the image above, which shows a more-accurate depiction of Jesus on the left, and the barista who works the evening shift at the Starbucks in Swede Hollow, Minnesota on the right:
When you see God as white, and people as being made in God’s image, it’s no surprise that non-whites are seen as a little less human, and it’s how you get ministers like Mike Huckabee.
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, political commentator on his own show, and combination Fox News contributor and Southern Baptist minister (which should not come as a surprise), posted the tweet above yesterday.
As the Arkansas Times noted, he chose Christianity’s most important holiday to post a racist gibe. Attacks against Asians are on the rise, and Huckabee’s greatest concern is that people he thinks of as lesser and not American are getting treated like equals and Americans.
Thankfully, a number of people have called him out, including Representative Ted Lieu of California’s 33rd congressional district in this tweet that captures my sentiments perfectly:
The odds that Huckabee will listen to Ted Lieu are pretty low. He did get called out by someone he does listen to — author and evangelist Beth Moore:
His response was to deny he did anything bad, which is the first step of the DARVO tactic — Deny. I expect to see the remaining phases, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender soon enough:
More context on Huckabee’s tweet:
- USA Today: ‘Antithetical to the Gospel’: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s tweet slammed as racist in MLB backlash
- Esquire: Mike Huckabee’s Outrageous Tweet Is a Perfect Example of Charles Barkley’s Comment about Divisive Politics
- NY Daily News: Mike Huckabee decides to ‘identify as Chinese’ in sarcastic tweet, gets ripped online
- Yahoo! News: Mike Huckabee says he’s going to identify as ‘Chinese’ in a tweet as anti-Asian hate crimes rise
- Business Insider: Mike Huckabee slammed for insulting Asian Americans with offensive tweet
- Huffington Post: Former Gov. Mike Huckabee Grotesquely Mocks Asian Americans In Tweet Amid Racist Violence
- Raw Story: ‘Racist much Mike?’: Huckabee slammed for anti-Asian and anti-Trans tweet amid rise in violent hate crimes
- Mediaite: Mike Huckabee Slammed for Crass Tweet Saying He’ll ‘Identify as Chinese’ Amid Anti-Asian Hate Crimes: ‘Straight Racism, No Chaser’
- The Wrap: Mike Huckabee Roasted for ‘Racist, Transphobic’ Joke About Corporate Critics of Georgia Voting Law
…Huckabee’s statement shows his annoyance at a group of non-whites getting special attention because violence is being directed at them.
Some more context if you need it:
- NBC News: There were 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents, mostly against women, in past year
- NBC New York: Man Wanted for Yelling Anti-Asian Slurs, Spitting at Mom and 3 Kids on Subway: NYPD
- Seattle KING 5: Rise in attacks on Asian Americans highlights history of tension and solidarity
- UC Berkeley News: The long history and present surge of anti-Asian violence
- The Daily Show: Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Continue to Rise
Huckabee’s complaints about Coke, Delta, and Major League Baseball are about their opposition to Georgia’s voting law, which appears to be designed to suppress voter participation, especially among minorities. Even the act of giving water to voters in line is now illegal in that state.
All of this was in response to results from the recent election, when Georgia, for the first time in a very long time, voted Democratic in both the presidential and senate elections. The new law is an attempt to make sure that such a thing never happens again, and thus preserve minority rule — a oligarchy of upper-class white people.
Back in 2015, a couple of weeks before marrying an American, I wrote:
In less than a fortnight, I’m marrying an American. As the husband of a U.S. citizen, I would be eligible for a green card, and eventually, citizenship. I’m also the direct descendant of a U.S. citizen, but I’m told it’s easier to get it via my wife rather than my great-grandfather, James O’Hara. One option is to stay here in the subtropical climes of Accordion Bay, which may mean that someday, I might apply for citizenship.
I come here bearing goodwill, skills in the areas of technology, writing, and rock and roll accordion, cultural and language skills that surpass those of many of the locals (it’s Florida, man!), and a jacket (pictured) that cannot possible be any more American than it already is. I have what it takes to be American. But the question lingers in my mind: will Americans ever consider me to be one of them?
It would appear that the answer is: “Not yet.”
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law back in 1994. Since then, it’s awarded over $8 billion in grants to state and local governments and organizations so that they could develop initiatives, programs, and services to protect and support women who are undergoing or who have survived sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking.
The law expired in February 2019, and until then, reauthorizing it was a formality. Then it changed.
H.R. 1585, also known as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, had a provision to close the “Boyfriend Loophole”. Simply put, this loophole limited the ability of people convicted of abusing or stalking a non-spouse partner to get firearms. Previous versions of the Act applied this limit to abusers who’d lived with or had a child with the victim. (Despite what people will tell you, Christianity isn’t the majority religion here in the U.S.; it’s gun worship.)
The Act passed a vote in the House of Representatives (263–158), but got stalled in the Senate. The National Rifle Association (as I said: gun worship) warned Republicans that voting for it would affect their ratings (Yes, in a nightmare version of Yelp, they rate politicians, and provide them with campaign funds. Again, I say: gun worship.) One NRA spokesghoul described it as “a smokescreen for its real goal—banning firearms ownership”. Because of their actions, VAWA hasn’t been reauthorized since 2019 — until now.
A day after the Atlanta spa shootings (which I’ll write about later), the House of Representatives voted 244-172 to pass VAWA. That’s right, this time even more Republicans — 172 in total — voted to oppose the Violence Against Women Act.
- The Independent — Outrage as 172 Republicans vote to oppose Violence Against Women Act
- GQ — Why Can’t the Senate Pass the Violence Against Women Act?
- Jezebel — The NRA Is Fighting Like Hell to Keep Stalkers and Abusers Armed