Superman: “I'm here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American way.”
Superman: “You don’t really mean that, Lois.”
Superman: “Lois…I never lie.”
- “Superman” (1978)
- “Superman II” (1980)
Got some free time for a “feature-length” blog entry? Y’all ready for a world history, civics and comparative cultures/politics polemic with an American twist?
It is almost the Fourth of July, after all.
“"We were always hesitant to include the term 'American way' because the meaning of that today is somewhat uncertain.
"The ideal hasn't changed. I think when people say 'American way,' they're actually talking about what the 'American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic."
"I don't think 'the American way' means what it meant in 1945. He's an alien, from Krypton; he has come to Earth to be kind of a savior for this world, not our country ... And he has no papers."
Those above quotes were gleaned from various interviews conducted with the screenwriters, Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris, of the latest Superman movie – which I have to wait another three-and-a-half-weeks to see in theaters! Great Caesar’s ghost!
I’m sorry…do they mean to say that the “
Well, in point of fact, the “
Now, look, you can have a movie where Superman doesn’t outright say he stands for the
Well… there is a bigger issue here though, that anyone with or without x-ray vision should be able to figure out. And it isn’t with the director. I’ll judge the movie when I can see it.
What worries me, what angers me, though, is when those in positions of influence – in the entertainment industry, no less – do what they can to sow doubt amongst the people. They do not simply get them to doubt what it means to be American, but whether it is even permissible to be proud to be American today. This is the implied, yet unstated, opinion of the screenwriters of “Superman Returns” (Look, Dad…I’m reading between the lines!). And it goes beyond simple comic books and big-screen blockbusters. It is part of a debate, a campaign of self-questioning and self-blame, that goes along with our post-9/11 world seemingly quite well. Usually, unfairly, that blame is mostly on President Bush (and not on the terrorists who have killed Americans, or are constantly trying to).
The screenwriters wanted Superman to be more internationalist, more palatable and relevant to the sort of “multi-polar” world the French would like to create (and this, of course, is out of an ongoing French desire, since day one, to stunt
As for Superman…hello, the guy is already an international superhero in previous movies. Don’t you remember, in “Superman II”, he rescued Paris (and
Now, as for the reported cutting out of “the
But yes, we’re talking not simply about international cooperation, but also a multi-polar world…in which selfish governments like, say, that of
Hmm…let’s not discuss the “
Let’s start by talking about the French Way.
What about the wider European Way? Well, what about it?
Let’s fight amongst ourselves for thousands of years. Let’s have a series of entangling weddings between royal families of different countries, and then in the early 20th century slaughter each other anyway when an Archduke is assassinated in
Or how about the
Let’s have Tzarist Secret Police, and pogroms, and a couple of failed revolutions. Then, finally, as
What about the Arab Way (don’t worry, we’ll get to the Islamic Way – though in many, many ways, these sections can be melded together)?
Let’s 1) team with the Allies to try and defeat the Ottomans in World War I, then 2) team with the Nazis to try and defeat the Allies in World War II. Let’s create a bunch of weak monarchies, and let a few of them be taken over by strongmen. Let’s see, we’ve had the
The “Zionist Entity” wants to move Palestinians out of refugee camps? Horrors! We need them as pawns! Let’s throw a tantrum, but not actually do anything for our Arab brothers except keep them in squalor! The
But what about the Islamic Way?
Female opinions? Female rights? What are those? Jihad, jihad, jihad! Crush the infidels! It’s the 1800s! A dawn of a new century! Let’s commit acts of piracy (as the “Barbary Pirates”), extort the Europeans and that new upstart American republic, enslave the Christians we capture, and let’s not be shy about all that being a necessity of jihad! The Islamic Way? Convert, die, or be dhimmi taxed to death! The Islamic Way (mixed with
The Islamic Way? Let’s introduce “zero” to these infidels, and hey, let’s unleash the findings of a mathematician's book...take a word from the title, al-Jabr….as algebra! That’ll teach ‘em! The Islamic Way? Let’s say others can’t launch or conduct an ongoing war with Muslims during Ramadan. But really, it’s okay for Muslims to attack Jews in 1973 on their holiest day, Yom Kippur, which for us was the 10th of Ramadan. We’ll even name a city in
God be praised, but only the Islamic Way!
But wait, is it to be the
Who’s up for mass slaughter in
God be praised, but only the Islamic Way!
Alright, that’s enough. Of course, many of the above are stereotypical generalizations…mostly of governments, not necessarily applicable to every citizen of the societies, cultures or religions mentioned. And yes, I fully admit, they are my brazenly biased opinions too…especially about the French. But I have empirical justification, and cause, there. Anyway, these generalizations, biases, and my opinions…they are all based on recorded, verifiable history as well as modern news stories. Some of this is straight from the horse’s mouth. Why make this stuff up, when the truth has spoken for itself time and again? You can see it on the History Channel, or look it up in a library.
Now, look, I know “the
Yes, we’ve betrayed our ideals and people and groups we’ve claimed to support on too many occasions – but such things, they are contrary to, rather than an example of, the
We went to war in
The hope and humanistic principles that were included in the Declaration of Independence…that’s a fundamental aspect of the American Way: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States itself provides the basis for the stability and security of government and life in the United States which led to the foundation of Manifest Destiny, the American Dream, and by extension the “American Way” that Superman stands for: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The protections for all citizens embedded in the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, and built up upon by certain Amendments to the Constitution in later years…these have helped to define and shape the
The First Amendment – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The Fourth Amendment – “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The Thirteenth Amendment – “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the
The Fifteenth Amendment – “The right of citizens of the
The Nineteenth Amendment – “The right of citizens of the
The Twenty-Fourth Amendment – “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.”
Basically, the American Way of life and governance that the screenwriters of “Superman Returns” thought was combative to the rest of the world, corrosive to the United States themselves, no longer relevant or – possibly – wrong, is that no matter what mistakes have been made in the past, we can correct them. It’s okay to be wrong, so long as we learn from our mistakes. We’re human. We’re imperfect. Justice is strived for, if not always achieved. Tomorrow can be a better day, if you believe it can be, and, if need be, if you work hard enough for it to be. The
Fortune favors the bold, as it has done for millions of immigrants to the U.S.A., and as it did for the Allies when, attempting to liberate Hitler’s Fortress Europe, they took a major gamble on the beaches of Normandy, in northern France, because in September 1939, the French Way was to not attack Germany’s 25 divisions in the western Reich with 110 French divisions while the Nazis had the bulk of their forces conquering Poland, and in May 1940 the French Way was to fight like crap and then surrender.
Luckily, then, the British Way after this capitulation was to fight on despite the odds, as Winston Churchill said: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.”
What the British Way is now, well…it depends on who the PM is, how anti-Semitic the BBC is or isn’t, and whether the populace can learn the lessons of 7/7, and place the blame where it belongs. Oh, yeah…
But back to “
The American Way was and remains a conscious break from the self-destructive Ways of the Old World, a break from the Ways of Inquisition, from pogroms, from expulsions from your country of those who are adherents of certain faiths; the American Way is a break from needless royal dealings and “marriage diplomacy”; the American Way, that Richard Donner, Christopher Reeve & Co. weren’t ashamed to have Superman talk about in the movies in those years following Vietnam or the Iran Hostage Crisis, is a break from the failed appeasement and selfishness of much of the world’s history.
It’s a “can-do” attitude – but it has given way to cynicism, self-doubt, and a thoroughly corrosive sense of insecurity among many that could take the country down a path it need not, and does not deserve, to head down. I’d discuss where the blame lies, but there are those who can do that better than I. It is necessary to be self-critical, but not okay to be so at the expense of justifiable patriotism.
Why be a screenwriter in the U.S. and dilute the principles of an American cultural icon – a fictional hero, but an American hero nonetheless – because of your own insecurity or supposed shame in being American, when (I remind you) the French Prime Minister and indeed many lay French look at Napoleon as a national hero, seeking out inspiration from a Corsican-French dictator in their past who, yes, emancipated the Jews but who also betrayed France’s anti-royalist revolution and for many years drenched Europe in blood out of his own power-hungry ambitions, and who said “I love power. But it is as an artist that I love it. I love it as a musician loves his violin, to draw out its sounds and chords and harmonies,” and “Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me.”
This, when many Americans look to the late President Ronald Reagan for inspiration, this president who on June 6, 1984 at Pont-du-Hoc, France, said “The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.”
It is okay, even preferable, that Superman is more than just a pop culture icon or example for Americans, but also for the rest of the world as well. Just this past Friday, by chance I found some “Superman”-themed kid’s toothpaste at a supermarket near my apartment in
Luckily, as we grow up, what Superman stands for is already deeply entrenched not only in the American cultural milieu, but that of the world – both real and fictionalized – that he inhabits. Superman transcends the efforts of insecure, ashamed, sell-out screenwriters trying to de-Americanize him. I’ll take the American Way over any other way, any day, any age, any era…no matter who we have to fight for it on our behalf, and even if no one else but me does. If there are Hollywood screenwriters who abhor or have doubts about championing the
Warden (after Superman drops off Lex Luthor at a jail): “This country is safe again, Superman, thanks to you.”
Superman: “No, sir. Don't thank me, Warden. We're all part of the same team. Good night.”
- “Superman” (1978)
Woman overheard in background, after witnessing Superman rescue a child on the Canadian side of
“What a nice man! Of course he's Jewish…”
- “Superman II” (1980)