That's what I remember: Hot summer nights, sweltering in my bedroom, reading comics and dreaming and drawing, while life went on outside the window.
Imagine a jail cell, yeah? A fallout shelter, where the walls are covered with so many drawings you can't tell it's a prison anymore. It's so bright and colorful: sexy girls, handsome musclemen, adventure.
You start to forget it's not real. You don't realize the world's ended for you....
The world DID end. Something happened to me, something worse than the bomb, and it all died. It's just taken me this long to catch up.
Alone in the world. Alone in my room.
Now the superheroes are as fucked-up as the fucking rejects who write about them and draw them and read about them. All the heroes are in therapy and there's no one left to care about us.
No one at all.
— Grant Morrison, Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery
I had this goofy-ass theory about the whole Edward Snowden thing. Well, not really.
The idea was this: if you were president and wanted to make good on a promise of a more open and accountable government after years of it consolidating power and rat-holing secrets, legislative haggling would get you nowhere. This would have to be a ground-up thing. The people would have to scream for it.
So one way to really get their attention? Wag the dog, orchestrate a live-action drama.
Snowden's right out of central casting for this, right? Young, good-looking kid, not highly educated, sort of an everyman. He looks like a young Gordon Freeman. His name's even a sort of slantwise portmanteau of Eddard Stark (nobleman killed by his candor and desire to find the truth) and Jon Snow (Stark's literal bastard son, exiled and trying to exist beyond the reach of civilization). Nice Easter eggs for the Nerd Century.
Then potboiler potboiler, Hong Kong China Russia Germany South America (Nazis!) Central America Russia Russia intrigue black hole Bolivia planes Spain France...Russia? Russia! Major players nearly all current or former authoritarian states famed for monitoring and controlling their own people.
So you concoct this whole thing, wait for people to get angry, let yourself take the fall as the bad guy, and grass-roots change begins. You successfully shove your nation off the path to becoming a police state. Talk about legacy.
Hell, even a spy novelist said he wished he'd written it.
Yeah, dumb. It's a wish, a fantasy. I don't believe it's real, not because I've all but abandoned hope in our government or the possibility that we can actually restore the sanctity of the rule of law, but for one simple reason: It would never work.
It's a great story, but people would have to care. That's the hard part. They'd have to care. Most've spent the last dozen or so years throwing up their hands and sighing, or worse, nodding in fervent agreement with whoever waves his flag the hardest or holds his cross the highest.
Age hardens in me the conviction that we are all of us broken in some way.
If reading about heroes doesn't inspire us to action, then why do we dream up stories about them? Is it just a balm, a way of enduring one more day under fluorescent tubes? Is it just a dream of a world we don't live in and don't know how to make? That can't be all there is to it, can it?
I love Grant Morrison because Grant Morrison believes in heroes. Not tough guys dressed in drab tones, but old-school heroes. Bright colors. Spandex. Kittens from trees. Men of Muscle Mystery. And the best part: he believes that that kind of heroism is, in its way, real.
I wrote last time of optimism. Life responded by tossing me headlong into a test of my commitment to that ideal, and I became an insufferable bastard.
None of which invalidates what I wrote before. I still believe in optimism. I still believe that it is a choice. But for me, it's a hard one.
Morrison will tell you that we are on the cusp of a new birth, that we will evolve into something more. He says it with the certainty of a man who has flipped ahead and read the last chapter.
I believe in that future too, but it's just a belief, not his certainty. To me it is only a possibility, the hope of which I sometimes cling to.
And I see that we are broken. And I wonder if we'll break that possibility too.
A young boy I love very much is being bullied. Some other boys who call themselves Christians are picking on him for being an atheist.
This boy I love has had suicidal thoughts. He recently admitted them to his parents. I think about it, and I pity his parents for the rage they have to swallow. Mine's only a fraction of theirs, and I caught myself fantasizing about terrorizing these children to get even.
I believe in modern-day gods and titans too, but I think they only exist if we choose to make them exist, and I can't see one here any more clearly than I can in the news. I see only that boy's fear and depression, the pathetic and damnable smugness of his tormentors, and my even more contemptible desire to heap his sufferings on their heads a hundredfold.
Professing a belief in something means doodly-shit if you abandon it in the worst case. My president believed in accountability until he saw the hard costs of it. Those kids believed in the teachings of Christ until they were confronted with someone who thought Jesus just another hero that someone made up. Me? I'm trying to remember that I don't believe in revenge or giving up.
Perhaps it's because so many things have come so easily to me that I find that last instinct as natural as breathing. It got hard; I'm going to bed.
I'm shamed by that boy, the one that I love, who has kept going in the face of torment, who had the guts to tell his parents he was thinking of ending his life. He's more of a man than I.
I'm shamed by the one Christian friend of his who has the sand to stand by him when the others threaten the same treatment. Give that boy a cape and some heat vision. Better yet, give him a church or a shelter to run.
I've never been anywhere near the brink of killing myself, but I do know what it's like to enumerate it as a possibility, to know that it's easier to be dead than you. You carry that possibility around in your back pocket, occasionally running your fingers over the bulge just to confirm that it's still there. Its presence isn't scary or sad, only a fact, reassuring in its way. An off-switch, break glass in case of emergency. Everything bad will stop. You don't need it yet, you just need to know that it's there.
It seems so reasonable to keep it there in your pocket, and it's only in your more lucid moments that you realize how alone that reasonableness is.
This boy that I love got knocked on his ass by that much loneliness, and he stood back up. While I was grumping about my bank account and my busted-ass car and compiling my list of petty grievances, while a dear friend's daughter finally and understandably grew weary of a lifetime of defeat and broke the glass, he stood up. This boy that I love.
I hope he keeps standing up. I hope life lets him keep his legs. Because if so, god damn, the hero he will become.