Friday, January 12, 2018

Our Fixation on Saviors and Superheroes

Happy 2018!
Dear God, in the words of John Winston Lennon,

"Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear"

From his lips to God's ear. If anything, before we get too far into what this new year may bring, it might be a good idea to look seriously at what 2017 and the years before it have brought us.

Now before anyone says "Donald Trump as POTUS", it should be noted that in 2009, many people thought our unresolved national and cultural issues were finally addressed with the election and swearing in of Barack Obama as President of the United States. We were riding a multi-cultural, "post racial" wave of optimism. Finally, FINALLY, someone had come to unite us all and save us.

The same thing has been said of Donald Trump by his apparently narrowing base of supporters, and a fair number of them are feeling the same sense of disappointment as many people did with Obama when they began to realize that neither man had "saved" us. Hence the rumblings of our discontent continue as we search for the next "savior", and wait for his (or her) glorious appearing. But there's a problem with saviors, and there's a problem with always needing to be saved. It kind of speaks to a predilection for finding trouble or trouble finding us. It says we haven't solved some basic problems in a truly meaningful way. We haven't resolved the issues that keep getting us into the kind of trouble that requires a dramatic rescue. Saviors and superheroes can be very good at dramatic rescues, and God knows it makes for great TV, movies and art. Witness the current box office titles or spend a night watching the CW network.

But what happens when our purported saviors are merely human (Barack Obama), or as in the case of Mr. Trump, not a savior at all but a blunt-spoken, charismatic (albeit mean-spirited) con artist who knows how to manipulate racial and gender animus to a contingent of our fellow citizens who are already inclined to believe that women, minorities, immigrants, LGBT people, and other "liberals" are what is holding this country back? More importantly, what happens when these saviors or savior wannabes fail us, as they invariably do?

If recent history is any guide, there will be the search for another savior, a crisis of faith such as what John the Baptist had when he sent people to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we be looking for another?" Unfortunately, then as now, this tendency misses the point. During the Golden Globes event on January 7th, Oprah Winfrey addressed a crowd of celebrities about the gravity of the current "Me Too" moment. In a mere nine minutes, she once again proved why she is the icon and inspiration that she is. Following that came speculation of Oprah running for president in 2020. I groaned at the suggestion.

Let's just take this off the table. Oprah Winfrey will not save us. Barack Obama did not solve our racism problem. Donald Trump is not solving his base's perceived problem with the afore-mentioned "out" groups. In fact, he's given strength to a resistance whose real power is only beginning to be felt. These people, many of them women (not surprisingly) and the very diverse people who Mr. Trump and his cohorts wish would just go away, are not superheroes or saviors. We know that neither Superman nor Supergirl nor the Flash are likely to come rescue us. We know that what needs to happen is the kind of creative thinking and problem solving that keeps us out of dire peril in the first place and we know we're the only ones who can do it.

We are, as Mr. Obama, a now rising icon said, the ones we've been waiting for. Cynics scoffed at the time. Note that these same cynics embraced their icon/savior with almost equal fervor in November 2016. Even so, Obama was right. With that in mind, our heroes and icons serve a purpose for good or ill. They inspire us to be more than we are or imagined we could be. Or they remind us of our failings and our sometimes dark and grotesque tendencies. We might do well to steer clear of saviors offering easy fixes to complex problems. They often fail us, and when they do, we tend to crucify them.

Behold, our next saviour?
Surely not!

More Later