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When Khomeini and Culture Collide

When Khomeini and Culture Collide

Superman caused a stir last month.

Just when we thought the birther debate was put to rest, another citizenship controversy flew in to replace it — Superman’s decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship in Action Comics issue #900.

In case you missed it, Superman appears in Iran to express solidarity with the Green Revolution and, through nonviolence, protects them from President Ahmadinejad’s military, police and goons.  As a result, Superman is dressed down by our President’s National Security Advisor for implicating himself in American foreign policy.  In response, the American icon announces his intention to renounce his citizenship.
“I’m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy,” he complains. “Truth, justice and the American Way” – it’s not enough any more.”
Ironies abound.
Many conservatives may actually agree with Superman.  Despite their outrage, it is actually the conservative’scritique of President’s Obama and his lack of immediate and unambiguous support for the Iranian protestors that Superman seemingly was sympathetic to, and which motivated him to take things into his own hands.
The parallels to Jesus continue to thicken.  Much has been written about the parallels between Jesus and Superman, and candidly I believe they aren’t just coincidental.  Add this to the list.  Just as many want to associate Jesus with “the American Way” – and in many countries we are certainly viewed as a Christian nation – it is important to affirm that who Jesus is, and what He stands for transcends any nation and culture – as do truth and justice.
And finally, art is imitating life, which is shaped by art.  The perception of who we are and what America stands for is shaped heavily by our cultural ambassadors, from Lady Gaga to Superman.  When a young Muslim called El Général, whose persona and music was inspired by Tupac Shakur, writes the anthem of the youth revolution “Rais Lebled,” our culture is a force for good.  “The kind of rap Tupac used was revolutionary. So when I became a rapper I wasn’t looking for love.  I was looking to rap for the good of the people.”
However, as Peggy Noonan points out, when our Ambassador is Snookie from the show “Jersey Shore,” we send a different signal.  She writes that the Kabul businessman visiting the U.S. knows “that when a culture descends to the lowest common denominator, it does not reach the broad base at the bottom, it lowers the broad base at the bottom.  This “Jersey Shore” doesn’t reach the Jersey Shore, it creates the Jersey Shore.  It makes America the Jersey Shore.”  And the man from Kabul knows it may make his country as well.

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