Violence is woven into the warp and woof of American life. When we are young, it takes over our dreams and make us imagine a super self that can take revenge on the bullies that steal our lunch money and slam us into the hallway lockers. Even when we grow up and become strong, we want to have an edge over all the people we imagine could harm us. Perhaps these people are Black or Mexicans; they’re not our kind of people. Hence, they represent a threat to us.
Perhaps we don’t get into our superhero uniform and cosplay our way out of trouble. Instead, we get guns and use them when we are threatened. We go in for such nonsense as “open carry” and claim that we, in the spirit of the Second Amendment, constitute a militia. But we really don’t. Instead, perhaps our wives yell at us or make eyes at Ralph next door. We pull out our guns and blast away. Or Junior gets upset that Little Bobby stole his tricycle. He knows where Daddy keeps his loaded gun. He find it, and before you know it he’s on the evening news.
Notice that our superheroes are not interested in getting along with people, in negotiating calmly with them. It’s either blood, or you’re a wuss. We make fun of Europeans for being more civilized than us, but down which mean street would you prefer to walk? Laugavegur in Iceland’s Reykjavik? or Hough Avenue in Cleveland?
In his novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon depicted the cartoonists who created America’s superheroes as transferring the Jewish Ghetto hero that was the Golem to American streets. The problem is, things got out of hand. The translation went awry.
I’m not saying the superheroes are to blame: It’s just that they represent one of the elements in American life that symbolize the mess that we’re in.