Why the world doesn’t need Superman

So I saw Superman today. Matinee. Eh.

As part of the plot, super reporter and Superman love interest, Lois Lane, penned two separate editorials: “Why the world doesn’t need Superman,” and “Why the world needs Superman.” You can guess for yourselves how this fit into the plot and Lois’ – er — interest in the Hunk of Steel. But I thought it’d make an interesting post.

And I come down…against Superman.

That’s right.

At first, when I was watching the flick, I was like “ooo yeah, if only Superman were here now, he’d know what to do with the CIA’s secret prisons.” I can easily picture him twisting iron train ties around the necks of certain federal officials, dusting off his hands, and considering a job well done. He’d save us all for truth, justice, and the American Way, none of which seems terribly popular in Congress or the White House.

Yeah, an invulnerable hero swooping in and cleaning out the bad guys. Yeah, that’s what we need, right?

Superman was first popular just as the Great Depression got underway. Some consider him the “ultimate immigrant” (from Krypton) who battled the rich and the corrupt. (His first appearance had him bust up munitions manufacturers and their corrupt, bought government cronies who started wars to boost sales – oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!) He was a social crusader, a man of the people, of the downtrodden. And he was omnipotent. He could do anything.

In other words, he’s the model for a dictator.

The funny thing about Americans is that when they hear “dictatorship,” they inherently think of the negatives of such an institution. A dictatorship, in our popular gestalt, is a jack-booted thug wearing a silly military uniform and ordering the deaths of a considerable swath of his own population. There’s prisons and beatings and death camps, barbed wire, German shepherds, and search lights.

But dictatorships have their benefits, too. There’s no check on an executive: he can act swiftly and decisively to, say, eliminate mid-level corruption among bureaucrats or make the trains run on time. There’s an awkward dispute with two controversial sides? No problem! Enter the dictator and poof! Problem solved. You don’t like the solution? Off to the Gulag with you, brother!

Remember, both the Hitler and Stalin dictatorships were popular with their people. Popular enough anyway to have the benefits outweigh the negatives, if you were lucky enough not to be a Jew or Trotskyite. Hitler reversed the economic depression in Germany by building a war machine; Stalin modernized the Soviet Union’s economy and made the country a world superpower.

And that’s the danger of a dictator, the allure. It’s easy to picture Superman as a friend. And, heck, he’d probably do a decent job as dictator – after all, there have been absolute monarchs who had peaceful, prosperous, and tolerant reigns. But once you open up the door – even to someone you like and trust – there’s no closing it again. And someone you don’t like might step through the opening.

So, for me, I’m going to say “no thanks” to Superman. This is a job for you and me.

  1. 1 4&20 blackbirds » Blog Archive » The American dicator will be wearing a cowboy hat

    […] Newshog has a post up concerning the administration’s dictatorial ambitions. It’s a question that I think about often, even when I go see a d*mn summer action flick. I will say that the single issue that has driven me from “normal life” into blogging and politics has been the Bush administration’s repeated attacks on our civil liberties. […]

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