If you think that this is a piece attempting to shatter all your highly held ideals, then you’re half-right. But my intentions are not entirely selfish, for there is a threat to the safety of this country’s social order. It looms large. Individual rights are at stake. Open-mindedness is hanging off a cliff, and disillusionment may be at an all-time high. So say it with me:
There is no Santa Claus. There is no Santa Claus!
Humans have an innate desire to latch onto ideals and stick to them like Velcro. It’s our way of remaining stabilized in a world that’s constantly treading forward. Those ideals manifest mainly through symbols (the cross, the American flag), art and people (Jesus, Barack Obama, Mom, Ronald Reagan, Michael Jordan). To many, these ideals can never be tarnished; only burnished. Hence, the ever-growing and disturbing trend of mass heroism.
Superheroes are larger-than-life creatures who mostly takes its residency in cartoons, movies and Greek mythology. Wolverine is a hero. Aquawoman’s a hero. To some, even Mike Lowrey may be a hero (God bless them). But the stench of their heroism often goes unnoticed, or at least unacknowledged. Each one of those individuals represented society’s obsession with promotion and deification; a glitch in the Matrix that is glossed over to appeal to our quixotic streak.
Stan Lee wouldn’t have created the X-Men if he knew of a better way to convey his disdain of the nature of oppression in U.S. culture. The Wire, hailed by many as one of the best shows to grace the screen, is promulgated in many discussion circles as a harbor of exciting villains. People can’t get enough of Marlo and Snoop, yet it fails to register to them that real-life Marlos and Snoops make life hard for people roaming the streets of every major American city. And the aforementioned Matrix featured an protagonist that is thought to be the cinematic equivalent of Jesus.
Heroes, Santa Claus and Greek myths have their genesis in the same motive: People love idols in some form or another. Our transition from children into adults doesn’t rid us of that; it enhances that.
How many times are we going to have to see a wholesome public figure be exposed before we realize the lesson? Truth is, we don’t know our celebrities. At all. Even with the deluge of media in contemporary times, only about 20 to 30 percent of what a journalist knows (if he or she is good at their job) is reported.
We don’t even know the people we talk to every day as much as we think. Yet, when a writer entertains the thought of President Obama “coloring outside the lines,” readers express aghast at such an “absurd” notion.
Please. You want to know the lover of disappointment? Expectations. There’s nothing more that disappointment desires than a person with high expectations. Like an inmate fresh out of jail looking for a woman (or not), disappointment courts expectations. It’s an iron law of life, next to the “No homeless Asians” and the “No BET in my home” law.
Fresh out the womb, we are 150 percent dependent on external help. As we grow, we are “loosed” from external help for the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and the like (most people anyway). Parents or guardians provide everything for us as dependents, except air (but they do determine how clean our air is).
What is a hero? Precisely the type of person who provides everything except air. And when you have somebody providing everything except air, expectations crystallize. I’m sure everyone can recall their first “my parents aren’t superhuman” feeling. For some, it happens at 20. For others, it may happen when they develop sight. The earlier, the better, because if it happens at 20, that’s 20 years of conditioning that has to be undone.
So what’s exactly wrong with these hyperbolic interpretations? People tend to be labeled as quasi-deities instead of humans. Humans are prone to shortcomings. Heroes are humans whose disappearance would cripple our lives. As children, we are made to believe in the supernatural because…we’re children. There’s a certain amount of optimism that each child should be imbued with; reality comes with gained responsibility.
Santa Claus represents a false sense of connection to a mystical being; a escapist’s route to avoid the reality of our fallibility. It’s the “my man would never do this to me” or “Obama wouldn’t dare dog out Michelle” mentality. It’s placing heroes or ordinary humnans in positions where they have no choice to fall, because they’re placed too high in the first place. A hero can have flaws; Santa Claus can do no wrong.
A hero is a daily testament to what it means to represent the best of human virtue, including, recovering from a fall. Santa Claus is a false idol, in which the villagers, upon realizing that the idol is false, burn down the whole thing (see: Chris Brown or Michael Vick). So who will be the next Saint Nicholas to come crashing down? Would it be the realization that – for homophobic men – your favorite rapper, actor or athlete may very well be gay? Or – for idealistic women – that your leading male in the spotlight be a massive philanderer?
Michael Jackson, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have all had “major” revelations emerge about their lives after their deaths. History should teach us that their faux pas should come as no surprise. But if you’re partial to fat men in red tricots, then, well, you should really check out these Bernie Madoff stock tips I have for you.