Our three year-old grandson is into Superheroes. Like super into Superheroes. He knows their names, their alter ego names, and the villain names. He knows their family, step-children, pets, and the name of their vehicles. I can barely remember our own two kid’s names and he can give you in-depth descriptions of characters I didn’t even know existed.
Names can be descriptive like Incredible Hulk or Spiderman. They can give you a hint to their super power, like Aquaman or Johnny Blaze. They can let you know they’re pretty great, like Wonder Woman or Superman. The name might suggest that they’re a villain, like Abomination or Poison Ivy. I like alter egos with cool names, like Bruce Banner or Bruce Wayne.
I think we all long for a Superhero to stop gun violence or human trafficking or feed the world. To stop crimes while they’re happening and to have people brought to justice. Wouldn’t it be great for one of the Bruce’s to transform into something big and other-worldly? To take over our responsibilities to society.
Years ago, I was at a school board meeting. The board passed a multi-million dollar budget without comment, but grilled the maintenance supervisor for 20 minutes about light bulbs. It occurred to me that we can get our arms around bulbs, but a multi-faceted, complex, integrated budget is beyond most of us. How do we deal with homelessness, climate change, access to education? Tough. Complex. Multi-faceted.
Unless you have Black Panther or Batgirl handy, maybe we need to step into the gap. One place for us to begin is dialogue, for us to stop name-calling and categorizing. Trump-er or Libtard, Bando or Gearhead, Welfare Mom or Clueless Businessman. We don’t allow any space for opinions or perspectives. We’re too busy classifying people so we can dismiss them.
Oprah Winphrey did a piece on 60 minutes called Divided. In September of last year, she interviewed voters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with an even divide of Trump and Non-Trump voters. Oprah went back to revisit these same voters to see if their perspectives had changed after the election. The group was and is deeply divided on perspectives and political persuasions. Interestingly, the group decided to stay in contact and to continue a dialogue. They named themselves, America’s Hope, and while they remain at odds with most issues, they now see each other as people. They hear each other’s opinions and they have found a way to stay together to continue an exchange. They’ve found friendship in discourse.
Maybe listening should be our new super power.