I Pity the Poor Immigrant, by Martha Thomases
According to my reading of the nightly news (between 4 PM and 7 PM, we watch CNN, BBC, and NBC), illegal immigration is a huge issue as we go into the primary season for the various presidential nominations. According to various estimates, there are as many as 12 million people living in the United States who are in the country illegally. Some entered legally, as students or tourists, and didn’t leave when they were supposed to. Others snuck in without going through the proper channels.
Neither party has a consensus on what its position is, but, to greatly oversimplify, the Democrats want to find a way to more quickly legalize the illegals while the Republicans want to deport them.
My opinions on the subject are greatly influenced by the comics I read now and read growing up as a child. As a DC fan, I know:
* Superman is an illegal immigrant (since granted citizenship), whose adopted parents committed perjury when they claimed he was their biological child.
* Wonder Woman assumed the identity of a United States citizen, Diana Prince, in clear violation of every immigration law on the books.
* J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, used his shape-shifting ability to pass not only as a human, but a Caucasian police officer.
* Hal Jordan got his Green Lantern ring from Abin Sur, an alien who flew in under our radar.
Growing up in Ohio, I thought alien immigrants were a great idea. Who wouldn’t want to live in a neighborhood with Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and J’onn J’onzz? Even if they didn’t have super-powers, they still had cool stuff from their native lands, stuff that was way better than lawn mowers, squirt guns or Barbie dolls.
Or maybe I could have read the DC stories differently. Maybe I could see Brainiac as some kind of metaphor for the foreign hordes who were going to absorb American culture until white, English-speaking people were living in gated communities, like bottle cities. Maybe Mr. Mxyzptlk would seem like an immigrant who just came to America and didn’t contribute anything to the economy, just used our resources for his own ends. Maybe R’as al-Ghul represents the creeping evil of scary foreigners.
When I moved to New York City, there were millions of people from other countries. I would routinely see Sikhs, Hasidim (who might not have been foreign, but were certainly alien to me), Muslims with head scarves, East Indians and more. They wore strange clothes, talked in strange languages, and smelled like they ate strange food. Sometimes, their foreignness scared me. Sometimes, I averted my eyes, or crossed the street. However, in the long run, I wanted to know what they could do that I couldn’t do. I wondered if any of them could be heroes.
Perhaps, if I were a Marvel fan, I would have a different perspective on this issue. Perhaps I would wonder if every strange person was secretly a Skrull. Maybe a person who looked a a lot different was really the harbinger of Galactus.
I don’t know.
I do know, when I consider which candidate to vote for, I’ll ask myself, “What would Superman do?”
Martha Thomases is ComicMix‘s esteemed media goddess, about to make her return to comics writing over at Munden’s Bar with Joanna (Road Song) Estep.