He is an illegal alien of the first caliber; he has lived a lie most of his life, pretending to be an honest and hardworking American citizen of birth but in reality a free-loading alien who pays nothing in taxes.
He has married an American woman, daughter of a war hero, to further perpetuate his masquerade, though he may not have thought that when he said "I do."
On the other hand, he has done much good for us and the world. Millions look up to and respect him, and have done so since 1938 when he washed upon our shores. Born and abandoned when his home came crashing down upon him, he has done little but good for all mankind, speaking out against Man's inhumanity to Man, and raising his fists only when needed.
He upholds the law, but holds to a higher authority...a defender of Justice, he has worked to make sure that laws are both fair and honest, and has exposed corruption when found.
His harshest critic, a former President of the United States, ridicules him as "an overgrown Boy Scout" and as "another disgusting alien influence", and has done everything in his power to destroy and corrupt this gentle soul.
Yet today, he faces his most earnest challenge.
Superman must go to Arizona.
Oh, so you think that this is not serious?
In the latest incarnation of Superman, science fiction maven J. Michael Straczynski brings the Man of Steel down to Earth in a series titled 'Grounded' to help understand both his connection with the people that he protects and the place he has on our world.
For those of you who are completely without a clue, Superman comes from the planet Krypton, his true name, Kal-El, or Kal of the House of El. His parents placed him in an experimental craft to escape Krypton's imminent and total destruction, sending him to Earth in the hope he would have a chance of survival. Found by a Kansas farming couple, he was raised in middle America, but began developing 'powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.'
With his upbringing, Kal-El, now known as Clark Kent, began a new identity as a protector of life, using his abilities for the good of all, as Superman.
To some, the retelling of the tale of Moses relates best to the Superman mythos, but the stronger underlying theme is that of a person, cast to the four winds and fate itself, finds someone who gives care and affection without expectation and, in return, gives that care and affection back many times over.
But behind all of this is the one simple fact: Superman is, by any modern definition, an illegal alien. (Where this leaves Moses, I give to the reader's own thoughts.)
- He arrived without documentation of his birth or origin.
- He was harbored by those who knew he was illegal and hidden from the authorities (aside from the extraterrestrial origin).
- He has possessed and still uses falsified documentation of his citizenship.
- He illegally holds a job as a reporter, a highly skilled postiton that an American citizen could legitimately hold.
- He has illegitimately gained citizenship through marriage to an American citizen without her prior knowledge.
- He has no 'green card'; his only "naturalization" is a United Nations decree that he is a 'world citizen'.
- He pays no taxes (although, in the 1950s, it was determined by the IRS that he has over 5 billion "dependents" to declare and thus owes no taxes), and has no visible means of support.
- Dealing with him has cost the US government and the private sector untold billions of dollars in time and materials to repair or replace what he has damaged during his time among us.
And yet, despite all of this, Superman still stands as a symbol that one can come to this country, find a life and, in living it, give back to the nation that gave that life a chance.
It makes no difference if he is imaginary or real; he is Superman, a true American icon, that almost everyone knows for what he represents...Truth, Justice and the American Way.
But do we still have the national wherewithal to deserve him?
Over the years, the readers of the Superman series have learned that while prejudice is everywhere, it is not to be tolerated nor respected. Bigotry, injustice and indifference to the suffering have always played a major role in the comics, and even more so in the "social awakening" stories that were produced in the late 1960s and through the 1970s.
Even in the so-called "Imaginary Tales", where the Superman legend is "tinkered with" in a sort of "what would happen if..." manner, we have seen the folly of Evil and the ultimate triumph of Good, and have been shown how to identify them in every day life.
But it seems that a lot of so-called "Americans" no longer share the values that Superman and the other comic heroes of our youth tried to teach us all.
For those who dismiss them as juvenile tripe, consider that since the 1960s, comics have been at the forefront of a new sociopolitical awareness, giving Americans and non-Americans alike a snapshot of life in the United States, from Green Arrow discovering and dealing with his young sidekick being a drug addict, to Captain America stopping the head of the Secret Empire in the Oval Office...just about the time that Nixon resigned.
Racial tensions, corporate greed, pollution, political corruption, terrorist and militia expansion, as well as crime and Mankind's inhumanity to Man. In fact, when we first see Superman in 1938, his first acts are against a crime boss, a wife-beater and war profiteers, leaving those who claim comics have little social relevance exposed as ignorant of the impact these pulp imagings have had, and a legacy that has been carried forward in all comics to varying degrees ever since.
DC Comics held a brief contest to draw attention to the new 'Grounded' series, asking people in a string of proposed US cities to submit essays on why their community should be visited by Superman in his walkabout. One of those cities is Las Vegas, painfully close enough to Arizona that it raised a concern about how he would get there if he walks instead of flies.
Take this mind exercise a moment: A lone figure wearing a bright and shiny costume, walking along a lonely desert road. He looks familiar, but he has no identification to prove he is who he says, and obviously has no cash or credit cards to show that he has any means of taking care of himself. It's fairly obvious that he is either mentally ill or a vagrant and possibly a danger to himself, and so in spite of the protestation, Superman gets hauled into Maricopa County Jail.
Consider: For any reason, at any second, any officer involved at this point could choose to say, based on a vague assertion of "officer experience", "Let's see if he is a citizen or not."
In the comic book world, of course, everyone would know who Superman was, and the scenario above would never come about. There would be a humorous by-play of conversation and forgiveness, and Superman would be on his way, and Sheriff Joe would learn his lesson of tolerance and treating his fellow humans with all the dignity he could muster.
Now, return to reality and consider what is actually going to occur.
Illegal immigrants who are working, paying taxes out of their wages and by buying within the community, will be uprooted and deported, with families disrupted and lives destroyed, based on vague innuendo and false information of drug dealers and abuse.
Like Superman, they came here with what skills that they have or learned when they did not; they found a place in our society that was not being fulfilled and made from it a life and means to raise a family, to grow and prosper, to become if not an American citizen then someone who contributed to American society.
Unlike Superman, they do not have the power to defend themselves against irrational behavior in the form of govermental fiat.
There is no one to hold Sheriff Joe and Governor Brewer accountable for the lives and bonds that they intend to destroy. Superman, the Martian Manhunter or Wonder Woman won't come down from the skies, free the innocent and punish those who would betray the very basis and foundation of citizenship in the United States, that we are all the children of immigrants, whether across the Bering Straight land bridge or by Viking dragon ship or Mayflower or Queen Mary.
There is no one else to stand as a universal example of what an "illegal immigrant" is or can bring to America, and why we should do what we can to integrate them into our society, whether as citizens or guest workers under a fair and just system, when even Americans forget the lesson that Superman taught us as children.
"My place of birth is behind me. You gave me a place to live, a life to fulfill, and a home to belong to; I will do whatever I can to help preserve your way of life so that others may follow my fortune."
This is not jingoistic propaganda; despite being an American icon, Superman has never been a willing symbol for a neocon agenda of rampant nationalism. Sure, there were wartime propaganda pieces to buy war bonds or save bacon fat for the war effort...but always, the message has been subtly done to support the troops in harn's way, and not necessarily the war itself, despite any editor's intent.
It's sadly amusing that for all the "All American" rhetoric our tea-bagging citizenry can muster, they don't realize that one of our greatest symbols is the target of their invective and ire.
Worse, if they prevail, what will happen to Superman in the comics to come...will Lex Luthor become the head of the Tea Party in order to drive Superman away? On a larger scale, that has already occurred in the comics, when Lois Lane's father and Lex Luthor worked the world into a frenzy to expel "unwanted aliens" to further their own agenda.
The grander scale of that storyline unfortunately obscured the banality of the anti-immigration rhetoric, even though it was closely entwined in the plot.
Perhaps a more direct and less subtle approach is needed.
Perhaps we can persuade DC Comics and Straczynski to include an Arizona interlude for Superman after all and expose the hypocrisy behind this legal atrocity called SB1070.
We may live in the real world, but much of what we do is based upon the concept of "What if...?"
What if I turn here?
What if Sarah Palin became coherent?
What if the Tea Party conservatives win in November?
So even though he is a fictional character, he is still beloved by millions around the world...so its not that far a stretch, really, to ask oneself:
What if Superman went to Arizona?