Of all the superhero characters ever created for the comics, Bizarro Superman used to be my favourite.
There was something about enjoying the dilemmas the DC Comics writers and illustrators must have grappled with as they imagined the myriad qualities and characteristics Bizarro Superman would have to possess in order to be the exact opposite of Superman himself.
First of all, where Superman has superhuman intelligence (he’s always doing the math – you have to when you have to apply the laws of thermodynamics, speed, resistance, time, space and figure out what women - i.e. Lois - really want) while Bizarro Superman (with a backward 'S' adorning his super-pecs) is stupid. (“Go fly kite Superman! This am job for Bizarro – only me can save Lois Lane!”) Bizarro is also boastful where the Man of Steel is humble, rude where his counterpart is gracious, greedy where the MOS is generous and so on and so forth.
And the differences extend to an entire species, a whole cube-shaped planet (Bizarro World) where the furniture is wobbly and poorly made, the men and women crudely realized pale blue versions of normal humans, and to a man – or woman - dishonest, mean and venal. The laws of nature are wonky and off-centre, and to top it all off, Kryptonite is blue.
Yes it’s all fun and games until comic scenarios turn startlingly real, then its tears before bedtime for all of us, as we slip into Rip Van Winkle mode for ‘FOUR MORE YEARS!’
It’s Bizarro America as far as I can see; a country and a people half of whom (the Republican half) have come to embrace values and beliefs and opinions the polar opposite of those they once purportedly held dear.
Interestingly, it was a comic book character in human form who presented the most honest face of the Republican party in his speech to the convention last week – Ahnold who admitted his attraction to all things Republican began after seeing Richard Nixon on television (‘I asked my friend “what party does that man represent” and he said “the Republican party” and I said “then I am REPUBLYCAHN!”’) and continued to share his growing love for America and American values by relating how he and his fellow Austrians lived in fear that the Secret Police would snatch one of them off the street, spiriting them away to some Communist Fortress, never to be heard from again. Such things, the Terminator stated, could never happen in Amerycah! (American borders, Guantanomo Bay, Abu Grhaib, any international airport in the world, and the Patriot Act notwithstanding…) He told conventioneers (to happy hoots and huzzahs) that if they believed that it was the United States and not the United Nations that was the best hope for democracy in the world, then they too were Republycahns.
He told them a lot of other things too, and Bizarro America took it all in and screamed with mindless Bizarro approval; the regaling and not the reviling of the dishonesty and venality of Richard Nixon, the loss of freedom and the degradation of human rights both in the United States and in foreign prisons, and the slap to the face of the rest of the world in admitting the contempt the UN is held in by the US, overridden by the bloody lust for another four years of hate and lies and half truths.
Where was the America of freedom and human rights and equality and love of fellow man? Where was the desire for peace and understanding in the world? Where was the respect for the courage of whistleblowers who risked it all and came back to tell their fellow countrymen about a wicked war and the senseless loss of human life?
It's Bizarro America. Opposite world – where the lessons from the Vietnam War have been re-written or re-imagined or just plain flushed away for the purposes of defeating a rival. In fact the madness and irony or re-writing and re-fighting the Vietnam War when there’s a perfectly good bloodbath going on right now just a few thousand miles away has been completely lost on Bizarro America. The fact that cowards and cheaters and those with the power and dough to get deferments have the dirty courage to call a man who volunteered for service and risked his life for their country unfit to lead a war against terror, and have effectively gotten away with their disgraceful accusations is perhaps the sickest and saddest Bizarro irony.
There was a time when America found refuge in honesty – in admitting mistakes and pledging to do better; in understanding that evil could and does flourish everywhere – not just everywhere outside the land of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
But in Bizarro America, you never admit mistakes; you consider honesty a weakness, sensitivity a failing, and the courage to hold two different thoughts at once – the need to protect against terrorism and the need to discover just what is at the source of all that hatred – unpatriotic. And you never, ever, EVER say you’re sorry.
In the DC Comics classic I have (a plastic-preserved gift from a true Bizarro) Superman triumphs over his Bizarro enemy by remembering right from the start that his wicked criminal threats would never become true, because his archrival always got it wrong – the outcome would be the complete reverse of whatever it was he predicted. If you follow the polls, right now, Bizarro America seems to be indicating George Bush is their choice for Bizarro President. One can only hope that Bizarro rules prevail and the opposite is true.
Either that or John Kerry has a super-stash of Bizarro blue Kryptonite somewhere handy.