Superman's Splinter
(Or Is It a Log?)
by Lori Heine

We're all rejoicing now, in the Western world, because we finally got Usama bin Laden. Though it is undoubtedly good news that there’s one less fanatical religious murderer in the world, I wonder if we’ve really learned our lesson.

The media coverage of this event makes it sound like Superman has, at long last, defeated the evil Lex Luthor. We in the enlightened West have triumphed over all that’s rotten and saved civilization from doom. But there’s an aspect of this story we have yet to really deal with. Superman has a splinter in his eye. You might even say it’s a log.

“How can you remove the splinter from your brother’s eye,” Jesus once asked, “when you have a log sticking out of your own?” And indeed, how can we?

It may help to remember why bin Laden was so dangerous in the first place. He fanned the flames of fundamentalist religious hysteria, using that to gain power for himself and his army of thugs. We would never allow our leaders to do such a thing, now would we?

Actually, we do it every day. Polls show that among the leading contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination are several power-players who’ve propelled themselves to great success using rhetoric that fans the flames of religious hysteria. We don’t go so far as killing those officially designated as “sinners,” but how many of these power-players’ minions would do so if they thought they could get away with it? How different is the principle underlying our passion for rhetoric of this sort?

“Why are those people, over there in that part of the world, that way?” might be the wrong question. The right one may be “Why are human beings like that?” Because, at least to some degree, we all are.

We like easy answers. We don’t want to think too hard. We enjoy feeling that we are superior – that we have the answers and others don’t. That God loves “us” more than “them.” If we think they’re evil enough, we even want to think that God hates “them” – and expects us to do something about it.

Superman will truly vanquish this sort of evil in our world when we understand these tendencies, not only in others very distant – and different from us – but in ourselves. And when, in our understanding, we have overcome them.


© 2011 Lori Heine

Art by Joe Shuster 1938 Action Comics, No 1.

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