As I start this column, the Iowa caucuses have been going on for less than half an hour. The 24-hour news channels, however, have been covering them, intensely, all day. The early returns aren’t in, but, since I don’t expect to finish this until the totals are final, we can keep talking.
Every four years, we go through primary season. This year, with neither party having an incumbent who can run for office, nor a vice-president who wishes to run, there is an especially large field. The network anchors assure me that, by next Wednesday, the field will have narrowed considerably as the trailing candidates drop out.
This is important stuff. We’re at the end days of what I hope will prove to be the worst presidency ever (as in “we will not ever elect anyone worse”). We have a huge deficit and trade imbalance, a tattered reputation among other countries, and people are dying in a war we didn’t have to start.
Unfortunately, if you watch the American news, you wouldn’t know this. You would think it’s all a horse race, a matter of who wins and who loses. Some say the Democratic choice is between Obama and Clinton, ignoring the fact that John Edwards seems to be getting more support than at least one of those people. On the Republican side, they seem to be willing to include John McCain in the battle along with top vote-getters Huckabee and Romney, but that might not last past Tuesday.
None of this will last past Tuesday, when New Hampshire votes in the first primary. Two states, neither with large nor demographically representative populations, set the stage for the political discussions. As a New Yorker, I resent any other region claiming to be important enough to matter. But I’m more disturbed at the idea that a single person, a candidate, can save us.
Are superhero comics (and other entertainments) to blame? That would certainly make writing this column easier. It makes writing and delivering the news easier too, with a simple narrative a mass audience can understand. It’s much more fun to talk about which candidate you’d prefer to hang out with over a beer, or which candidate appeals to soccer moms, NASCAR dads and the “Sex in the City” single women. And if one candidate can swoop in from the sky with a cape or an invisible plane and save us from the bad guys, that’s the best story of all.
This isn’t how we get real change. In real life, there isn’t a single hero who saves the day. As one of those scary Marxist-feminists (although I belong to the less celebrated Groucho faction), I know that power comes from the bottom up, not the top down. The troops came home from Viet Nam because millions of people marched in the streets, not because the President saw the light. Former slaves and women got the vote because they demanded it, not because white men thought it was a good idea for them to have it.
In the same way, neither Huckabee nor Obama (whom the networks are now declaring to be the winners) will bring about real change by himself. I mean, both have last names that end in vowels, so that’s something, but it won’t change your life, nor mine. They’ll only be able to bring the troops home, or end legal abortion (depending on who wins) if the people let them.
If this is the choice of the people, the will of the governed, that’s the way it is. But if it happens because we’re too busy talking about who looks more comfortable in a pantsuit, we’ve abused our democracy. And neither Superman nor Wonder Woman will be able to save us from that one.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of ComicMix, would like to let people know that she also likes Harpo a lot.
Martha Thomases brought more comics to the attention of more people than anyone else in the industry. Her work promoting The Death of Superman made an entire nation share in the tragedy of one of our most iconic American heroes. As a freelance journalist, she has been published in the Village Voice, High Times, Spy, the National Lampoon, Metropolitan Home, and more. For Marvel comics she created the series Dakota North. Martha worked as a researcher and assistant for the author Norman Mailer on several of his books, including the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Executioner's Song, On Women and Their Elegance, Ancient Evenings, and Harlot's Ghost.
Are comics to blame? Sure. Here's Part A, Section 3 of the Comics Code, in force for two or three decades: "Policemen, judges, Government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority." There's lots more.Can you ever know if an when you've recovered from a lobotomy?
Hey, we are all adults with free will and can make our own choices.I try to steer clear of all media crapola and decide for myself.
Lessee, two states with an underwhelming amount of non-Caucasian people. Is it all that mysterious that the elephants sided with a guy who openly advocated rounding up the queers for the long march to the camps? Obama hires an "ex-gay"gospel singer to warble the Lord's prayer for his gravy train tent revival circus…Ah, Hilary Dilary doc…turn, turn, turn turn again…As ever, for me, it begs the question: "Is this the best we can do?"Who would I rather have a shot of Patron Silver with? That's easy: you, Martha!THEM? They can clean up the mess afterwards!They are, at best one-dimensional caricatures–poor representations of even the loosest definition of a hero.Pa-tooie!Give me Emma Goldman, anyday!
I think the focus on trivia does draw in some people; witness the response to your survey of the candidates' favorite comic book character.But I think it's mostly the profit-driven, 24/7 cable news networks that are to blame; in a desperate need to fill time and boost ratings, they inflate every little thing to such monumental importance they've completely lost perspective, so citizens need to be super-savvy nowadays to get beyond that. Fortunately, the advent of online activism seems to indicate that this is exactly what's occurring.
Great column, as usual. I am making a habit of locking the kids in a closet so I can enjoy it every Sat morning. Millions of people took to the streets to protest the Iraqi invasion, too. Kyle and I did, pushing little Lillian and Isaac in a double stroller with countless others in 2002. But the current administration does whatever the hell they want; they stole the election. It wasn't a secret; why isn't there more talk about this? That is part of the reason I have been so ambivalent about these elections (also b/c I don't want to hear about a 2008 election in 2007, these campaigns are just so long now…YAWN) – who cares? Whomever has control of the voting booths and the associated technology owns the government. Why campaign for a Democrat when he or she can't possibly win because the voting is rigged? The real American superhero is the media-savvy techno-nerd who can expose this and save American democracy. PS Speaking of the Iraq War: I must plug Kyle's "Special Forces" The third issue is going to be awesome. Hey Martha: Can you knit a Felony costume? Free NYCC admission to any Kyle Baker fan (preferably female) patriotic enough to wear such a thing.
Edwards is one guy has made a difference this year, pushing progressive ideas that Obama and Clinton have had to respond to. I'm looking forward to voting for him.Obama statements recently have been turning me off but the fact he spent his couple of years as a community organizer for an Alinsky organization is what gives him real cred to me. He won because he put together organizers to get people out to vote in Iowa, he's involving people even if the media makes it about him. When asked "How do we know you won't turn into a Washington Shill when you get there?" he said something like "There's got to be a movement pushing me to make sure I don't become a shill, if there's not I will become one". So he has a better sense of the world then the average politico hack.I'd be happy to vote for him too.But I'll keep on working with MoveOn.org then work for any of these folks just yet.
Martha's column is indispensable for understanding what is happening now. It is not a matter of party; it is not a matter of skin (Obama sounds as much like a Republican when he talks about health care and Social Security as any Republican); it's not a matter of "change" (what change? where? when? in what direction? benefiting whom?). It's just as Martha says.I blame the illusion of free will, myself. Convincing yourself that the people who spend millions, if not billions, to convince you that they aren't manipulating you, so they can better manipulate you, is a very very dangerous game. I think this country may well die from the illusions thus created.
When I was 13, I led my school's contingent on the March to the Pentagon against the Vietnam war.This Friday, we can Wear Orange to support the closing of Gitmo:http://www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/closeguant…
Is that really Obama in Metropolis?
I'm thinking of a write in vote: Martha for President! At least for the primary, since the Democratic candidate will likely be decided by the time the Pennsylvania primary rolls around in April. (Quick rant: the primary system is broken. The primaries should be grouped regionally and the dates rotated every 4 years so that everyone gets a chance to vote first. I'm tired of the Iowa and New Hampshire "tradition" of going first and some candidates being forced to quit the race before I get a chance to consider voting for them.)