It’s funny how little things can sometimes lead to a revelation.
It happened to me the other day when I was at Exposition Park in Los Angeles and I had several strangers come up to me and strike up some eye-opening conversations.
I’m not the most gregarious person, so you might wonder what spurred this series of dialogues.
In this case, it was Superman.
Actually, it was the Justice League. See I have this T-shirt that pictures Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash, and I happened to be wearing it on this fine fall day. But Superman is the most prominently featured figure, and he is the character who got everyone talking.
Strange, I know, but true.
Almost a dozen people commented that they liked the shirt or gave me a thumbs up when they saw it. What I noticed was that almost all of the Superman fans were black.
I only mention that because it struck me as a statistical oddity, given that the park had a large, ethnically diverse population that had turned out to see the space shuttle.
One nice older lady talked about her excitement over the movie that’s due out next year and the previews she’s seen of the film. I asked her what she likes about Superman, and she said, “He gives people real hope.”
Naturally, I had to ask what she thought about President Obama. “I thought he was going to give us hope,” she said, “but nah. I’ll take Superman. I love superman. I just wish he was real.”
(I can hear some of my Christian readers now — we all know Jesus is the real Superman and hope, but just bear with me.)
I asked a fellow who commented on Superman what he liked so much about the Last Son of Krypton, and he said, “You know what’s cool about Superman? He’s so strong he can do anything, but he always thinks about other people first, and he makes you want to be like him.”
I also asked him about Obama, and he said, “I don’t think he really likes people, you know? Not unless it can get him on the news or something.”
We conservatives spend a lot of time scratching our heads trying to understand the appeal of President Obama, and there are probably as many reasons as there are voters in the U.S.
We also spend a lot of time ranting about how Obama has bought the Oval Office by increasing the spending on unemployment, food stamps and all the other social programs the government offers. We tend to feel that most of the recipients are just feeding at the public trough, trying to get free “stuff.”
It’s certain that there are people who game the system, but in my experiences talking to people who receive government benefits, I’d say the majority of them — more than half at least — would like to get off the programs and be self-sufficient, but they either don’t know how, feel trapped by rules that work against people who start to make a little more money, or they’re so beaten down by whatever experiences brought them to this pass that they feel they don’t have the strength to stand up again.
Mr. Hope and Change was able to exploit this, and I would underline “exploit.” But I don’t believe it was hope for free stuff that lit the fire under a lot of black voters for Obama.
It was instead that he was able to give them something to aspire to, a vision of being better people. Granted it was all smoke and mirrors, but Obama was able to tap that feeling in 2008.
I have a suspicion that many of the voters who responded to that feeling before have fallen from the Obama faith this time around.
We live in a society that measures well-being and happiness by material success. When a poor person gets excited about an “Obama phone” or whatever trinket, it’s not necessarily just greed that’s at work. To someone who doesn’t have a phone, it can become a symbol simply of belonging to the larger society, a feeling that you too are acceptable and are better than your present circumstances.
I think that’s what people respond to in Superman. As a fictional character, he is pure symbol, and because he is thoroughly good, he allows us to aspire to be more than we are, in healthier ways than our current politics would encourage.
That aspect of Superman’s character is what also makes him a uniquely American hero (despite recent comic book and Hollywood writers’ best efforts), because there is nothing more essential to the American spirit than the conviction that we may not be perfect but we sure as shootin’ can aim in perfection’s general direction.
That’s the exact opposite of Obama’s philosophy, which is to drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator. And that’s why I think he will lose in a fair election vote.
Alexis de Tocqueville said, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Or, as in the case of Superman, we’ve got to fight for “truth, justice and the American way.”
Americans live on both sides of the electoral divide, which was created by politicians for their own advantage. All we really need to unite us, it turns out, is a hero who sees what we truly can be and who can lead by example.