Martha Thomases: The Superhero Lesson
Everything I need to know, I learned from superhero comics. Not just how to infer the meaning of words I don’t know from context (seeing bullets bounce off Superman while someone said he was “invulnerable”), but also how to be a citizen.
The superheroes I loved were, in large part, immigrants and refugees. Superman and Supergirl (refugees from Krypton), Wonder Woman (immigrant, at least in her initial stories), Martian Manhunter (immigrant, or maybe kidnapped slave), Adam Strange (immigrant to Rann), lots and lots of X-Men and Legion of Super-Hero members.
Immigrants and refugees were characters I admired. When I got old enough to study history, I learned that real-life immigrants and refugees were among the most admirable people ever to live in this country. I also learned that not everyone shared my perspective.
There is a long history of demonizing immigrants here. Over the centuries, people have whipped up hysteria over Italians, Irish, Greeks, Chinese, Jews from anywhere, Catholics from anywhere, even Native Americans – who aren’t even immigrants. We fear those who are different from us, and it prevents us from seeing what we have in common.
Many of the people who created my favorite characters were themselves immigrants or the children of immigrants, people who grew up in neighborhoods filled with people who identified themselves as hyphen-Americans. It’s not a surprise that these men (for the most part) created heroes who were outsiders.
Now our so-called “president” wants to restrict immigrants’ access to the American dream, to shut out refugees who face persecution and, sometimes, death if they return to their country of origin. This isn’t only immoral and un-American. It’s also bad for business.
And it’s bad for those of us who love to read, which I assume includes you, Constant Reader, if you’ve made it this far. Immigrants and refugees write some of our most important (and delightful!) books. We need more people with talent in this country whether they are LGBTQ or non-white or non-Christian or foreign-born or whatever.
And, by the way, my family has been in this country longer than our so-called “president’s” family, so if we’re sending anybody back somewhere, he has to go before I do.
Another thing I learned from comics is that change starts with me. No matter how super-powered a character might be, nothing would happen until he or she got involved. I’m delighted to say that comic book creators and cartoonists are putting this plot into our reality and standing up for immigrants and refugees, and those who protect them. According to this, several cartoonists are sending original artwork to people who donate to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Think about doing so, too, even if you don’t get any artwork. You might just get an artist.