Searching for Superman

The sea looks angry and murderous. Like ten raging Poseidons, it tosses and turns, letting out a mournful wail that whistles through the air. Assaulting everything on its waves, the mighty waters crash over the tiny rubber boat and submerge everything that was on that foolish object of desperate hope. Somewhere, a God weeps.

From the pages of a freshly printed comic book, a God brought alive by our imagination, weeps. Born into turbulent times of the second world war, he has now been around for more than seven decades. And it hurts him to see those who grew up reading his fictional heroics watch the world go dark with muted horror.

Superman, a beacon of hope. An icon of “Truth, Justice, and the American way” watches his adoptive home fall into chaos, paranoia, xenophobia and hatred. And unlike the world of the comic books, he is powerless to do anything here.


I grew up watching Superman on television. Comic books were an expensive luxury in India. Only the rich and the elite could afford to subscribe to the monthly adventures of their favorite heroes.

The rest of us cheered for them as they appeared on the TV. We all had our favorites. Some of us liked Batman. Others liked Wonder Woman. And some of us, like me, liked Superman. He came in the form of actors like Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, and Brandon Routh. He also graced the screen as an animated character. And I loved him in every Avatar.

In ‘Lois & Clark, The New Adventures of Superman’, he came as the naive farm boy from Kansas, out in the big city to make a difference as a reporter for the greatest newspaper in the world, The Daily Planet. In the animated series, he was the friendly resident alien who taught us the value of right and wrong. In ‘Superman Returns’, he was the tormented soul who didn’t quite belong here and yet shouldered the responsibilities of a protector even at the great cost to himself.

A refugee from another planet, the immigrant child so different from humans that it might as well have been a changeling baby, an alien with the humanity of a saint; this was the Superman I grew up watching. This was the Clark Kent who told me and countless others that there would always be a safe haven in America, a place we naively believed to be the greatest country in the world.

So we all packed our bags and came here. Some of us came as students to gain a golden education. Some of us came here to find shelter from the storms brewing back home. We came for the promise Superman made to us. And like children, we believed in the strength of icons.

But he aches for us. He exists; in the thousands of people gathered outside various airports in different American cities. He exists in every refugee relief worker who is busily securing visas and permits and medical insurances for people arriving from Syria, Ethiopia, and Yemen. He exists in the rallying cry of all Americans who are defying Donald Trump with theirs words and actions.

In each of those people is a hero; the hero who shared the American dream with people all over the world, as he rescued fictional people trapped under fictional landslides. And for all his fictionality, he resonated with every person looking for a real symbol of hope.

And he is still here.

 

Note: Image Source: Superman “Saving Grace: A Hero’s Rescue” by Kristopher B. Meadows

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