Does Superman Cause American Imperialism to Occur?

Superman: American symbol of justice or a pro-war, pro-genocide nationalistic fascist imperialistic war criminal?

Superman: American symbol of justice or a pro-war, pro-genocide nationalistic fascist imperialistic war criminal?

I guess people do read newspapers these days.

On Thursday, April 16, 2009 Whitworth University welcomed the Reverend Peter Storey to come lecture at the Robinson Teaching Theatre. Rev. Storey is a South African religious leader who was Nelson Mandela’s chaplain during his imprisonment on Robben Island. Storey played in important role in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa and ushering in a new era of democracy and racial justice.

Storey was one of the leaders of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that brought perpetrators and victims together in a spirit of forgiveness. Oppressors confessed their crimes in front of the victims or family members of victims as a way to heal national wounds caused by racism and injustice. The TRC is part of the reason why South Africa did not boil into a civil war after the apartheid government lost their power.

His lecture was part of the annual Simpson-Duvall lectureship that welcomes speakers from backgrounds in history and English. I met Rev. Storey before when I visited South Africa as part of a study tour in January of 2008.

On the morning of April 17 Storey came into my “History and Politics of Nonviolence” class. The professor, Dr. John Yoder, is a peace studies scholar who led the South Africa trip that I went on. At the beginning of his lecture, Storey held up a copy of The Whitworthian in front of the class and wanted to point out a particular story.

He read the headline: “Superheroes Do More Than Just Entertain” and tried to pronounce the name of the author.

“Tim Takeechee?” Storey asked.

A helpful voice shouted out “Tuh-keh-chee,” which cleared that up.

Tim Takechi, who happened to be in the class, identified himself as the author of the article that he is referencing. I’m guessing Storey had no idea the author of the opinion piece would be in his audience that morning.

Storey said the opinion article points out that in times of crisis, people in society turn to their mythological heroes for inspiration. Such an assertion is true and follows the point the author was trying to make. But then Storey changed directions and started to criticize the author’s lack of mentioning that superheroes use violence to solve problems.

Rev. Storey is a peace activist who believes that violence is never a good option in solving problems. This is a point of view that I respect and recognize as quite credible. However, Storey went a step further and implied that the author of the piece (which, if you haven’t figured out yet, is me) seems to be saying that superheroes are justified in using violence to defeat evil.

Often times peace activists will blame the “media” as perpetuating violence in the world. The “media” show that violence is the only option and fail to acknowledge that peaceful nonviolence is a viable solution even in today’s world. When in doubt, blame social evils on the “media.” It works every time.

But does reading Superman and Batman comic books or watching the Spider-Man movies make you a violent person? Or even deeper than that, do these characters contribute to fueling the American War Machine that invades every oil rich and pro-Communist country in the world? Will reading Wonder Woman comic books make young girls want to join the military and kill every dirty Arab and Muslim in the Middle East? Storey, though not to that extreme, might think so.

Maybe it’s unfair to say that Storey believes reading comic books will lead to a violent pro-genocide pro-war right winged Nazi American culture. But then again, maybe I’m just a tad upset that Storey ridiculed my editorial in front of the entire class.

He even went as far as to joke that I should rewrite my article. Rewrite my article a month after it has been published? Ouch! That hits below the belt. Even Jayson Blair would tell him that he’s being too insulting.

But does pop culture really lead to a violent culture at large? That’s a whole other blog post. For now, I think it is suffice to say that I should be proud as a journalist, not upset. This is not the first time I’ve received criticism from people regarding my opinion pieces. Every journalist gets ridicule sometime. It’s part of the job. But this is the first time such a high profile person has said anything negative to me.

Storey is not just some random person. He’s a major figure in South Africa and international peacemaking. I feel just like Thomas Friedman or George F. Will, who are always being criticized by heads of state and political figures for their stories. This is a sign that I’ve arrived on the journalistic scene. How many student journalists can say that a prominent national leader has criticized their work in a public setting? Can Jim McPherson say that?

By now, my upset feelings have subsided and have been substituted for feelings of pride. I defended my article in class, but in the interest of time, I did not have time to completely argue my case. Either way, I can sleep well tonight knowing I’ve rattled at least one important person in the world of global politics.

The Great and Mighty Peter Storey now knows that at least one American college student will not go down quietly when his work is being slammed. Having a doctorate degree, years of theological experience, partaking in ending apartheid, and being a friend of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu does not mean people will automatically bow down to you and agree with everything you say. I’m an American. We’re used to fighting back against authority figures.

But this whole incident reminds me of something more important. In an age of economic recession, dying newspapers, and emerging online multimedia journalism, it is comforting to know that at least someone out there is reading newspapers. Not just any newspaper, but The Whitworthian, of all publications in the world.

Do people still read newspapers? Yes. But as I know now, not necessarily comic books.

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One Comment on “Does Superman Cause American Imperialism to Occur?”

  1. Aya H. Clark Says:

    Wonderful piece (not “peace!”) from a wonderful journalist!

    To have one’s editorial work publicly challenged by a national figure is both humbling and invigorating. God will use both humility and vigor to mold and mature you into the writer He wants to use. Bravo!!

    Even the Bible doesn’t teach the “non-violence in all circumstances” point of view. Otherwise King David was never doing the will of God in his life.

    Keep up the good work, Tim.


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