Politics, Pop Culture

politicizing villains

I retweeted this so fast without thinking it through.

If we lived in a world of superheroes and supervillains, I think it would be more like The Watchmen than the world of Marvel or DC. In other words, one can’t tell immediately if someone wants to harm or protect. The repeated phrase in Alan Moore’s The Watchmen is “Who Watches the Watchmen?” Even those who say that they are superheroes should be watched because anyone can err on the side of manipulation, corruption, and deceit.

To take it a step further, it is because of this election season I can imagine people defending a villain like Batman’s Joker. “He had a bad childhood, he’ll turn over a new leaf. He has the organizing skills, we just have to help redirect them toward better things.” I’ve heard more people make excuses for political candidates, treating them like goddesses/gods rather than like human beings. 

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If Trump is a supervillain, surely Clinton is not a superhero. In superhero movies, it’s not  those in political office who are superheroes. Although, it becomes fuzzy with S.H.I.E.L.D., which is an arm of the government and includes superheroes (Captain America, Black Widow, etc) working for them. It’s not the political conventions we should be looking to for superheroes, but for those who stand for justice, not through speeches, but by caring for the poor and the working class and shouting to the hilltops Black Lives Matter. These are the people who are overshadowed by all the talk about the middle class. 

I’m reminded of the immortal words in the song “Eyjafjallajokull Dance” by The World is a Beautiful Place and I am no longer Afraid to Die:

“Today we are superheroes, but tonight we’ll just be tired”

Perhaps the singer is tired because they realize that a true superhero does not exist and they were trying to live up to an impossible expectation. I think it’s only right not to cast this expectation of pureness/trueness on anyone either. No one is a supervillain and no one is a superhero, we’re all mixed like cyborgs with brokenness, love, hope, despair, sadness, and joy. I agree with Donna Haraway when she ends The Cyborg Manifesto declaring, “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.” We don’t need more people who think that they are the answers to our world; rather, we need people to be committed to communities of struggle, understanding that they are flawed, but something must be done to create a better world for us and generations to come.

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Peace, Politics

batman, kurdistan, and the red prison #PPFIK

Currently,  I’m with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Christian Peacemaker Teams on a delegation in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Today, we visited the Red Prison in the morning. Below is the blogpost I wrote for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. It didn’t hit me until later in the afternoon how drained I was from the experience.

Before coming on this delegation, we were not given a detailed schedule of our 13-day stay. Rather we were told to prepare emotionally. Our CPT delegation coordinator, Terra, explained that this trip will affect our whole being: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I did my best to prepare for such things before leaving by spending time with friends and re-watching some of my favorite episodes of my beloved Frasier. Yet, today, on the second day of our delegation, I was so emotionally drained from going to and learning about the Red Prison that I had to take a two-hour nap

The Red Prison is just one of the locations Saddam’s regime set up to torture and execute Kurdish people. The facility was built in 1979 and was in full use from 1984-1991. On our tour, we saw where they imprisoned young Kurds. In their cell, there were several depictions of Batman on the wall. Possibly a sign of looking for a superhero to save them from this hellish experience. Notice how Batman’s arms are open wide and that he’s smiling.

We listened to how women and children were kept in the same space. That many of the women were raped and had to birth and raise their children in such wretched conditions.

We saw how each room had a bowl on the ground for the Kurds to eat like dogs and how they were forced to 10 second bathroom breaks.

It’s not that I didn’t know that Saddam Hussein was a horrible dictator who should’ve been captured. These impermissible acts of violence, abuse, and torture are evil. It’s that I wonder why the US did not speak out earlier against these crimes against the Kurds, but that we had to occupy Iraq two decades later (2003-2011(?)). The problem is that the US gave monetary resources and chemical weapons to Iraq during this time. This was during the same time of the Iraq-Iran War (1980-1988) and the Reagan administration wanted to be sure that Iraq would win. This led to the killing of thousands of Kurds using chemical weapons in Halabja and hundreds of Kurdish villages were bombed to non-existence. From 1984-1991, hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people were killed, hundreds of thousands more tortured, and millions displaced.

Kurdish blood stained the floors of the torture rooms. Kurdish blood has stained my heart and memory. May we as peacemakers put an end to torture and executions. May we continue to lift up and remember those who have been murdered with the help of our government. May we, with God’s help, create a world where people are treated with dignity and reparations abundant.


In the afternoon, we met with Mullah Nadar, who is an interfaith peacemaking Muslim leader of Iraqi Kurdistan. He was a joy to listen to. One of the reasons he became non-violent was that he saw his family killed by chemical weapons before his very eyes and understood that violence cannot disrupt violence, only peace can.


Over the next four days we’ll be in the Kurdish mountains with spotty internet access. Keep us on your mind and in your prayers.

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