For ML Brewer, wherever she me be…
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” — George Santayana
“The further backward you look, the further forward you can see.” — Winston Churchill
“We live life forward and understand it backwards” — unknown author
In a recent article in the Huffington Post, DC comics, perhaps as a nod to President Obama’s recent comments on gay marriage, have said that they plan on taking an older comic hero and having them change their orientation.
“DC co-publisher Dan DiDio, when asked why DC would switch race, size, age, all sorts of identifying features, but not orientation as they relaunch their whole catalog as “the New 52”. Surprisingly, Dan stated that they had changed DC’s policy in this regard. And they are about to reintroduce a previously existing DC character who was previously straight and now will be “one of our most prominent gay characters.” As Senior VP Sales Bob Wayne explained, just like the President of the United States, the co-publisher’s policy on this “has evolved.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/21/dc-comics-gay-superhero-i_n_1533105.html
For years, the gay community has made remarks about Batman and Robin, but DC has steadfastly refused to say anything or let anything be said about Batman’s sexual orientation. As a nod to the community, DC a year or two ago introduced Batwoman as a gay character, with Rachel Maddow writing the introduction of it’s graphic novel version. The satirical part to all of this was that “Batwoman” was an atrocious 1950’s attempt to have there be “all things Bat” and as a response to a bizarre book in the 1950′ s that said that comics would lead to the downfall of civilization because they had homo-erotic undertones (then a ‘perversion” linked to Communism and all the other things that McCarthyism said were bad). But while it made reference to the earlier character, DC never said that the new character was the old character. They were simply acknowledging that gay folk existed and that some of them could be heroes, even in comics’ fantasy world.
Now, I should tell you that Batman is my favorite of all comics because I loved the TV show in the 1960’s. Now considered “camp”, to a 7 or 8 year old, it was full of real life lessons — be a good citizen, wear your seatbelts, be physically fit, etc. There was a lot of talk online about Batman/Bruce Wayne being the character whose sexuality would change and every bit of my being was screaming “can’t you just leave my childhood alone?!” when I read the news. The point of comics for years — at least at DC — was that life existed without sex. The contrast wasn’t heterosexuality vs. homosexuality. It was between sexuality itself and asexuality. For years — generations upon generation– sexual activity was a private matter not discussed in public. Sexuality in general was discussed — people were going to grow up straight and get married because they loved other and babies were going to be magically born. Today, gay folks are accepted not because people picture them having sex, but because people acknowledge that they are in love and babies are now magically born to them. Anti-gay folks, I think, can’t get over the sex part. People worry that our culture is hyper-obsessed with sex, not with love. Love, they like.
[By now, you’re probably wondering what the Bush Tax Cuts have to do with all of this. I promise I’ll get back to them, let me just ramble on/fill out my thoughts a little more first].
An African-American history professor and I were recently talking about raising kids without any sense of “the struggle” — and how we had this vague sense of problem with it. We don’t want our children — his Black son and my White daughters — to have to struggle because of their race or gender, but we get some vague sense that they should feel the excitement of growth, of standing up for what’s right, of standing up for themselves, of being grateful for what they have because it wasn’t always this way. As much as we don’t want our children to suffer (and we feel dumb for thinking they should), we realize that facing these challenges made our generation who we are.
When I taught at Manchester Community College, there was this sense with my students of disconnection from history, as though this generation sort of free-floated in time. Their versions of my lifetime were skewed by spin and cuteness rather than related to reality. The peace sign, for instance, wasn’t a challenge to society for them, it was a piece of jewelry that looked really cool. For me, that sign gained any meaning it had because it was a statement — a challenging of a world at war for poor reasons.
One of the recent “advances” in the academic world is what they call “post-modernism”, based on the philosophy of a man named Foucault who basically says that reality doesn’t matter as much as the meaning we give to it. Homosexuality, for instance, has always been around. How we view it in different societies, times, or places, has changed. As someone whose reality has been challenged at various times due to disbelief or unwillingness to believe, Foucault has always bothered me. My clients lives are changed because frequently I believe their reality, as well its meaning, for the very first time. It’s not just that they “make a big deal” of their trauma. It actually hurts — and they feel crazy when their reality (which hurts so much) is denied.
Related to all of this is the fact that there was an African-American professor in New York City who was blatantly making up history in the 1980’s because his “right” to create mythology was just as valid as White folks who were writing history texts. If post-modernism is correct, then this professor was right in what he did. But what happened to the reality of history? Where was that?
I don’t care that Bruce Wayne might be gay or that my hero Batman might be because in the world of DC comics, just like in the reality of public life, people’s sex lives don’t matter. I assume that all my friends have sex, it just doesn’t matter to me. I care about what they do in my life — the life outside of the bedroom. Maybe it’s because I like life in the 10 year old’s “latency phase” or maybe because society does just fine without thinking about sex. But, more importantly, I don’t think you should change history. If you pick and choose what parts of history should look like, based on the modern version of them as constructed by the latest generation, we’ll take the easy way out. If people were “always” gay or anything else — if women always had voting rights, if African-Americans were always kings, then they never had to fight for their rights. It’s not that we learned from the past. There is no past — only what the present wants to hear.
So now, suddenly, when women’s rights are under attack, the history of bad ideas has to be fought all over again, without any knowledge of why they were bad ideas in the first place. “Because we’ve always had birth control” is not a real answer when it comes to defending why women need it. “Because it’s our right” is not an answer to “why is it a right”? When I read old psychology text written in the old way, “he” meaning “he or she”, they seem outdated now. They are difficult to read but I have to remember that that’s how we thought back then, even if it’s not the way we think now. Yes, it’s work to do this, but I also know we have been fools in the past and we could be fools in the present. That humility hopefully slows me down enough to not take myself or someone else too seriously.
In a timeline that has a real past, we can make judgements about what we want the present to be. In a timeline that has a real present, we can make decisions about what the future should be …. which leads me to the Bush tax cuts.
Recently, Nancy Pelosi got in some trouble due to considering extending the Bush tax cuts. At stake, it seems, was the philosophy of the cuts. Democrats thought one way, Republicans thought another. No one was dealing with the reality of the cuts. The only reason to change course on something is if it doesn’t fit with the context of today’s reality. When Bush proposed them, he thought that they would have a certain positive effect on the economy. I thought they were a bad idea even back then, but he was the president and I wasn’t and the fact of the matter is that he could have been right. Maybe, in fact, he was when he proposed them. People had more money in their pockets and — for a brief period — they added to the economy by spending “their” tax money.
Those who believe in trickle-down economics believe that the wealthy are or will be “job creators”. If that’s true, where are the jobs they are creating? If the wealthy aren’t going to create jobs with their new-found wealth, then the predictions failed. We should go back to the old way because the policy doesn’t work and doesn’t fit with the context that we now have. In an economy where where jobs are being created, the tax cuts make sense because they add to the fairness in the world. In an economy where jobs aren’t being created, and people’s needs are not being met, those who aren’t making the system work shouldn’t continue to make the decisions that make it worse.
The action/reflection model works if we actually reflect on our actual reality. It doesn’t as long as we argue about the philosophy of the reality — about what should be, what we believe to be, what we want to believe, rather than what is. We can only make changes in present reality and past reality by acknowledging what reality is. Let’s try to make things actually happen for ourselves — not by saying we’ve changed, but by knowing we have.