The Superhero’s Alter-Ego

The Superhero’s Alter-Ego

America has no shortage of heroes. They’re everywhere. Even without doctors, nurses, teachers, adoptive parents, philanthropists and more, we’d still have someone falling onto subway tracks twice a week, and a hero there to save them. American heroism is cliche. There’s even a script when we inevitably stumble our way into the title of hero, “I just did what anyone else would’ve done.”

Despite this happy surplus, we drift farther apart. It won’t be long before the subways are delayed twice each week, while the dead bodies are shoveled off the tracks.

Perhaps we need something more than heroes? Something powerful enough to point us in a single direction. Is there anything to which everyone agrees?

Religion has done well to reduce seven billion soldiers to about a dozen armies. It has also dramatically intensified the will to fight and is unlikely to ever produce a singular conclusion. Life? Too many hate it. Love? Too many lack it. Death? Probably not the most productive of messages. And there aren’t that many universal experiences.

Truth? Laughable. It’s too difficult in definition, discovery, understanding and propagation. It depends more on perspective than objectivity. It is seldom presented as-is. Instead, it is garnished, obfuscated or omitted altogether. Now, truth is immutable. But that doesn’t guarantee it will be harvested, properly stored and faithfully distributed. Some will go mad in its pursuit. A floating few will wrap themselves around it like a life preserver from time to time. Still, others will turn and run from it at all costs. But it is something we all experience, on some level. And it’s vital if we’re ever to extinguish our only two obstacles: fear and ignorance.

So, truth probably won’t work either. It is beyond human to strip oneself from the equation. What man or woman is capable of seeing through unfiltered eyes? Of describing a thing, not as they’d like it to be, but as it is? We exist to make the world more like ourselves. To voluntarily deny that compulsion is far too great a sacrifice.

Still, it doesn’t even have to be some ultimate truth. Rather, what thing occurred. The tiniest most fundamental truth at every step. The rest will be as it may, but we’d always have a place where we could all stand together.

If only The Justice League existed. Or The Avengers. Superheroes who’d committed themselves to something or other and the American way. Selflessly. On behalf of the rest of us. But even then, you can’t whomp or ka-boosh truth. We need something much more powerful than super-strength.

Some group of individuals willing to remain “stoutly independent [and] unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power …” no matter what. Or something like that. Individuals that honored their duty

to the people. That were “never careless [always] self-controlled [and] unswayed by the appeal of privilege or the clamor of the mob….” But that is way too much to ask of any human.

Even if some willing, capable group made that unimaginable sacrifice, it still wouldn’t be enough. Not without superpowers of some kind. That could breach and expose otherwise impenetrable fortresses. That could always best the mightiness of the sword. That could willingly and equitably distribute hard-fought spoils to the yearning masses. That could resist the guaranteed immediate gratification of not living up to their creed, or simply walking away into a much more comfortable life.

If only there were superheroes like that.

And so the enemies, villains and super-villains of the people will eventually win the day. Because if the job is too big for Superman, then what the hell can we expect from Clark Kent?