Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Or, This Looks Like a Job for …By Wayne Goodwin
I remember quite vividly as a child and teenager eagerly poring over the usual action comic books expected to be on the reading lists of all American boys. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Green Lantern, The Flash. Their adventures fighting against evil and for the usual “truth, justice, and the American way” certainly helped provide the escapism one needs at that age.
Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, most of the foes faced by these superheroes were super-villains and occasionally a thug or mobster or evil scientist. Decades ago the bad guys were the Nazis or even the Communists, story lines that mirrored the times then. Even with comic book enemies who were real – such as Adolf Hitler – an element of fantasy still remained in reading how someone like Captain America would subdue the foes of democracy. Even in those plot lines with actual persons involved, a science fiction edge persisted in combination with willing suspension of disbelief.
Then came September 11, 2001.
That day I worked in my law office by myself, trying to settle a case or two before the necessary drive to Raleigh for the night’s legislative session.
While on the phone with opposing legal counsel, he said “did you hear about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center?”
“No,” I replied. Intrigued, I quickly jumped onto the Internet after completing my call and saw live streaming video. I scanned the developing news reports on CNN and MSNBC. Then I heard – maybe I saw it on the screen, it’s all a blur now – almost instantly as the second plan hit the other tower. Soon there was news about the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. People falling – jumping – out of windows 100 floors high? The towers collapsing? Where was the President? What is going on?
Due to the state of emergency I recall jumping in my car and driving to Raleigh, my heart racing almost as fast as my car engine. With the world seemingly crumbling around us, was it even safe to go to the Legislative Building and the State capitol? I also remember thinking to myself and then sharing with a few others that perhaps the culprit was Osama Bin Laden. After all, he had threatened death to Americans and western democracy for quite awhile. Soon thereafter we learned he and Al Quada were, in fact, the source of these attacks on American soil.
In the days that followed, it was if the pages of any number of comic books had come to life. A super-villain had attacked us, killing thousands and threatening to cause even greater harm. Life had become surreal.
Yet Superman was not to come.
For almost six years now, our modern day Lex Luthor has remained at large, continuing to taunt us on occasion, daring us to catch him and promising even greater calamity for truth, justice and the American way.
But that is only part of the storyline.
For decades – increasing in frequency and seriousness each year – we on Earth have heard about the damage we humans are doing to our planet. I recall reading in 4th grade back in 1976 that we would run out of oil early in the 21st century and that we needed alternative fuels soon. Then there was also the buzz, no pun intended, about “killer bees” that were going to swarm in from South America and devastate and kill people in the southern United States. About the same time we learned about a new unparalleled malady called AIDS, and how Earth’s ozone layer was disappearing. The number and intensity of hurricanes and the number of 100+ degrees Fahrenheit days dramatically increased. But yet, many in business and industry and in government denied what was going on.
Even as scientific evidence and mountains of data proved that mankind was killing itself by dumping carbon into the atmosphere, the naysayers grew louder and yet smaller in number. Eventually it seems as if only Americans deny what is at stake.
Just as in the lore created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, on Krypton the scientists denied Jor-El’s scientific findings and warnings. They refused to listen to reason. “You are dooming our planet and our people,” Jor-El said time and again. “Save us while there is time.” His pleas fell on deaf ears and he had no choice, as Krypton began to explode under the light of its red sun, but to send his son in a rocketship away from the devastation. In that vessel was Kal-El, whom we later know became Clark Kent and Superman. In the comic books, that is.
Now we, too, are in a struggle for survival.
Scientists tell us that it would take a super-sized Manhattan Project or a mega-Apollo Moonshot effort to prevent cataclysm. Even the naysayers – not all of them yet – have succumbed to the fact that we must eliminate our reliance on non-renewable energy and do everything to stop the extinction of life as we know it. This is for real and not fantasy. Is it too late, just like it was on Krypton?
Meanwhile, we keep hearing more and more about asteroids that are likely to slam into Earth as they travel through our orbit. NASA tells us that many remedies would require us to address such threat years in advance. The space missions would require international cooperation and trillions of dollars. Can we do it in time? Will we?
Where are you, Superman?
Through a twist of fate, there is one person on Earth now who heroically leads the way, doing his mightiest to bend not steel bars but political will toward the “inconvenient truth” that our planet faces these days. Coincidentally, during his nascent 1988 campaign for President he was described as Superman because of his looks and demeanor.
Al Gore is here to save the day.
A parlor game it might be, but I firmly believe this Nation and Earth would have been on a much different course had every vote been counted in Florida in 2000.
Whether he pursues a changed world with his Oscar and a future Nobel prize in the private sector only, or as a returning Presidential candidate in 2008, Al Gore is the closest thing we have to a superhero right now. Though ridiculed for his stalwart position, he alone among national political leaders championed the cause of the environment, nuclear nonproliferation, and technological and global communications advances such as the Internet.
And unlike those chicken hawks in the White House right now, Al Gore would not settle for Osama bin Laden to go free and get away with his heinous crimes.
In my opinion, what would help Superm- I mean – Al Gore in his battle would be for him to don the cape of Presidential candidate and run not only for the White House but as the planet’s best hope at saving itself. He would have the swagger and fortitude to go after bin Laden and religious terrorists, but also the gravitas and intellect to lead America and the world to safety.
If only it were that easy.
Sadly our lives have become the stuff of DC Comics or Marvel.
Yet, there is hope: The superheroes today are the political activists and the voters demanding change and getting it piece by piece. They are the bloggers, the precinct walkers, the candidates and officials sticking out their necks for the truth, justice and American way that we all know it to be and not the “American way” the Bush-Cheney White House, the once-Republican Congress, and Fox News have created.
To save the world and this great Nation we must do more of what we have been doing in recent years: Organizing, educating, inspiring, rallying, funding, and leading.
This fight – this struggle – will not be easy, but then, again, any superhero is up to the challenge.
Onward to 2008!
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This is a cross-post from my Wayne' World blog for the Eighth Congressional District Democratic Party. You may access it at http://www.eighthdistrictdemsnc.blogspot.com. This was originally written last month (March 11, 2007) on a similarly-dreary Sunday afternoon.