When I was a kid, I started reading comic books and was soon hooked on stories of caped superheroes and nasty, powerful villains and the conflicts that always seemed to get resolved through the masked intervention of the good guy. I never was much enamored with the fact that the women were given virtually no place in the narrative, except for being the one rescued, but that started to change when Marvel Comics introduced the Fantastic 4 and X-Men. At any rate, I read them all, along with all the science fiction, fantasy, and mythology I could get my hands on at the library.
I'm still an omnivorous reader, though I don't indulge in American comics any more, but one thing I've been thinking about lately is the stories that would appear from time to time in Superman comics that took place in Bizarro world, where everything is the opposite of the way it is in the real world, and Superman is completely discombobulated because he can't succeed by resorting to his usual tactics to save the world.
And that's the way I feel about what is going on in this country today. We are living in Bizarro World, where nothing makes sense, and things are the opposite of the way they need to be in order for us to survive. Think about it. We have Bizarro John McCain, a veteran and survivor of prison camp, determined to prevent legislation from passing that would help his fellow vets to survive PTSD without killing themselves. We have Bizarro Fox News, with its Power Trio of Beck, Limbaugh, and O'Reilly spewing hate and racism and mean-spirited drivel into thousands of ordinary people's minds, apparently with the intent of convincing them to choose the opposite of what would help them. We have the Bizarro Catholic church, whose leader is protecting a cadre of its own who engage in atrocities against children that they themselves would classify as mortal sin if someone were to whisper it to one of them in the privacy of the confessional. We have Bizarro Sarah Palin, killing innocent animals on live television and advising her kids to load up on the junk food because the First Lady has suggested that obesity in children is a problem, and maybe we should cut down on desserts. We have Bizarro John Kyl, trying to convince us that our own hired representatives shouldn't have to work during the "holy" week AFTER Christmas, when he would pitch a hissy fit if the cops or firefighters in his neighborhood took the holidays off to be with their families.
The Bizarro Republicans, finally back in the saddle (at least, partially) after two hard years of saying "No!" to everything the President wants to do, have managed to pull off the most ultimate Bizarro BS trick ever by convincing enough people that things will be great for the poor if we just give a whole lot more to the rich - that is to them and their corporate handlers. And they've also managed to convince each other that unemployment benefits make poor people lazy and that those who have paid into Social Security for years and years shouldn't be able to have easy access to it. Plus, they think that THEY should have government-funded insurance, and the rest of us should just suck it up - or die.
Oh, and that brings up another Bizarro World belief, and I'm really confused as to how this one snuck in, though it's been around for a while. A corporation has the legal standing of a human being, and, not only that, thanks to our well, you get it by now, Bizarro Supreme Court, these "persons" can contribute any amount they want to support whatever agenda they want, and it's pretty clear that they won't be supporting those whose work makes their bonuses possible.
I guess I could just turn off the television, but then I would be living in my own version of Bizarro, pretending that the craziness that passes these days for average American behavior, and certainly the behavior of a majority of our elected officials, isn't really happening. And, even if the TV was off, it would be impossible for me to ignore the magazine ads, the billboards, the nasty bumper stickers, the crowds of homeless folks huddled together under the bridges of all the major highways, and the joyful ignorance of some of my own students when I hear them tell me that they don't read books and don't see why they need to, as they surreptitiously try to surf Facebook during class time (well, that's another story entirely).
It makes sense that, like Superman, those of us who have had enough of this Bizarro behavior and want our world back are going to have to change our tactics. It has to start small, at the level of each individual, and we are going to have to find kindred spirits and help each other in small ways. It's really what people in communities, neighbors, if you will, do when times get tough and scary. The Republicans aren't the only ones with the power of "No!" We can say no to Bizarro each time we are kind to someone. We can say no by giving help to someone we know who is out of a job. We can say no by donating an old coat, or a pair of shoes, or a meal to a homeless man , woman, or child. We can say no by going to visit someone in a "retirement community" who has no one else in the world to talk to. We each have our own ways and our own resources, whether financial or not, that we can use to deconstruct Bizarro in our lives and the lives of those around us. When enough of us are doing that, it WILL happen. We are already starting to find each other, thanks to the very technology that can also be used against us, and some wonderful new, grassroots organizations are sprouting all over the net.
I will never forget a story I heard, though I have forgotten where I heard, or read, it. It was about someone who was walking along a beach with a man who was native to the area and knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna. He (or she; I can't recall) stepped on a spiky, poisonous starfish and began to panic, thinking he needed to go to a hospital. The native man calmly picked up the creature, turned it over, and applied the starfish to the man's bite. The suckers on the creature immediately pulled the poison out, and he was fine. Maybe this is apocryphal; I don't know. But the point I'm trying to make is that we, each of us have the cure in our being, just as much as we have the poison, and together we can find a cure for the blight of Bizarro World .