In the past couple of weeks, I heard similar questions on podcasts I love. On Wait, What, a comic book podcast, Graeme McMillian asked and answered a question about why he reads comics. On The Gist, Mike Pesca detailed why he loved politics. Both of these questions got my thinking about my own feelings on both issues. And also made me tear up.
I was bullied. A lot. People constantly told me I was weak, stupid, gay, etc. I would go home crying almost every day from middle school. I would go home alone almost every day in high school. But I discovered DC Comics. The Justice League were friends. And I wanted to join. To have a group of people who have adventures together always made me happy.
Grant Morrison was writing JLA at the time and his stories revolved around what good people can do when they work together. I fundamentally believed that. I’m not sure I do anymore. But as a teenager, I did. I would look at Howard Porter and John Dell’s art with wonder. It had a blocky-ness to it that brought out the kinetic energy of the characters.
Each month, I could not wait to find out who the 16 members of the expanded team was going to be. I loved the new characters Zauriel and Aztek. Big Barda and Orion appeared for the first time and I began to want to know everything about the New Gods. I even bought Genesis, which if you read comics, you would know is a terrible crossover written by John Byrne. But if nothing else, I had somewhere to go every Wednesday where I was not alone.
And I would come back to my house with a series of comics to dream.
21 years later, I still have a similar loneliness. Although I live with my partner and soon-to-be husband, he’s gone a lot. And I have yet to make any friends. I lack any sort of community and my family is hundreds of miles away. Phone calls don’t do any justice to that. But I have more disposable income. So, I buy more comic books.
I buy too many that I don’t understand. Lots of them really don’t make sense. But it gives me somewhere to go every Wednesday. Some people to talk to about the multi-colored paper. And a world to escape to. With lots of hours alone, I need that escape.
I wanted to change the world. And then depression hit and I struggled. Although the comics helped, I still suffer from what Abraham Lincoln called melancholy. But I felt like other people could change the world. I still read policy. And I like to understand agendas. But politics lost its glow for me in 2016. I no longer enjoy watching the news. I still listen to podcasts and read a lot, but it’s too much about horse racing and winners and losers. I’ll stick with good guys and bad guys in 22 page comics.
But I want that to change. I want politics to become a beacon for our system. When you grow up thinking that people can work together based on Grant Morrison comics, you dream it. But when you realize that generally people are loudmouths that want to pontificate and not listen, that dream becomes a nightmare. I still dream that a time will come will people will listen, act politely, and work together. However, I need to do that without the nightly news.
People love to use the word privilege. We throw it around at each other without truly understanding another person. It has become another way to just point fingers. But what becomes removed in the concept of privilege is sacrifice. If one does have a privilege over another, it takes a sacrifice to try to level the playing field. It would be lovely if one could just build everyone up to the same level, but we all know if you have ever played with a water table, if one part goes up, one goes down. Inertia.
With privilege and sacrifice also comes empathy. Yet with all of this, I believe most people take advantage. If they see sacrifice or empathy, someone takes it and runs. Until they take that privilege away. It does not take much time to look around our world and see people taking advantage of another’s empathy or sacrifice to achieve a goal.
And for both of those things, I sit and cry. I wish I lived in the world of superheroes. I wish I lived where the good guys defeated the bad guys. Dreams of a common love for each other and a respect echo my mind. But each day, I fear that will never happen.
When you spend as much time alone as I do, you realize how little the world cares. What feels like something so large and hard for you means so little to someone else. I remember back to when I drove in my grandmother’s funeral procession through the streets of Chicago last May. It was a day that truly hurt my family. A full day of goodbyes for a woman who lived 100 years. Yet, the world continued moving – except at stoplights. And I appreciated each of those stoplights that let me pass through my grieving as the world provided the most minor show of respect for 100 years of life.
And I truly believe that privilege means that you don’t care how little the world cares for you. And you expect that stoplights to just let you pass.