Well, folks it's been quite the summer, hasn't it? In rapid succession we had the latest opinions from the Supreme Court, the non-resolution of the Trayvon Martin "Stand Your Ground" case, a taste of what it might actually be like if a kid from another planet landed here, grew up in KS, got super powers and had to mix it up with his own people, and finally what it really takes to beat the monster that stepped on Cincinnati. By the way that's not actually a movie, so don't go looking for it.
So let's see. I had this great post planned about upheaval in terms both figurative and literal. For example, Metropolis (not a real city) has to get used to being in constant re-build since a certain strange visitor from another planet started flexing his muscle ostensibly to help people, which he does, but not without the kind of real estate damage FEMA usually gets called in for. The Supreme Court decides the DOMA makes no logical or constitutional sense, but the VRA needs "adjusting" because we don't live in the same country that we did a half-century ago, completely ignoring what just happened last year in a bunch of states. Then of course, the crown jewel of bewilderment was set in place on July 13th, as George Zimmerman got to walk out of a FL courtroom a free man after admitting to killing an unarmed teenager who wasn't doing anything except walking home in the rain.
Yeah...we're not gonna live that one down for a while.
Oh, and there was the woman in TX with the orange sneakers (or were they pink?) who stared down a room full of politicians (mostly men) for nearly 12 hours while she lectured them about how creepy and wrong it is to treat women as if they had no other purpose on earth but to be breeders.
Somewhere in the midst of all this I became enamored with a show on PBS that almost nobody watches called "Downton Abbey". It's about the lives of a high-born English family and their servants (yes, they had those) in a grand estate around the turn of the 20th century before World War One. Just when I'm getting down in the mouth about the world comes a piece of magnificently done period drama, with marvelous performances, well-drawn characters, and more compelling plots than a J.J. Abrams' show. Since this is a slice of life from roughly a century ago, it shows how far we've come technologically and socially, and how far we still have to go. This is what art does. It shows us ourselves, and makes us better for the reflection.
Now I hear that the Smithsonian may want the hoodie that Trayvon Martin wore the night he was killed. It's an important moment in our culture and an interesting way to commemorate it. I think about the movie I referenced, Man Of Steel, which of course is the freshest redux of the Superman story, and one of our best cultural fantasies, that someone can impose himself into our lives and save us from our worst aspects, our worst instincts. Superman is just one icon. We have others. But the truth is not so easy. It's closer to the reality of Downton Abbey, where sometimes our demons win, and our reptilian id gets the better of us. But also, we can learn from the signs around us and become more than we were and rise up to the moment when we need to. We can evolve, and our uniquely human capacity for story and creating meaning allows us to do that. We use art to do this. So we have heroes: Superman representing what could be transcendent in all of us. State Senator Wendy Davis who represents what we can be when we need to be. We have villains: the TX state legislature, maybe the US Supreme Court, a jury in Sanford, FL that allowed a man to get away with murder. Then we have somewhere in the middle, the residents of Downton Abbey, the parents of Trayvon Martin, and the rest of us. Getting it right. Getting it wrong. Learning and evolving as we go. Hopefully.