By ROBERT JEDRZEJEWSKI
Growing up on Pittsburgh’s Southside in the 1940s was “hard scrabble” at best. Fortunately, we didn’t realize how poor we were. Often shrouded in soot and noise from the J&L steel mill, the streets were our playground and the nuns in Catholic school our gentle “jailers” from 8 to 3. We escaped into comic books; they were our booze. It’s how we learned to read and fantasize. They were junk, but they were our junk. They gave us the kick that for a little while at least, we were the bosses and had a place to hide where we could not be got at by “grownups.”
Of all the comic book heroes, by far the favorite champions of the childhood cognoscenti were Batman and Robin, who weekly combatted and overcame the villainous denizens of the crime world who threatened us from all sides. We would argue over who was their most formidable foe: The Joker, The Penguin, Two-Face, The Riddler, The Cat Woman, Clay Face, etc.
Fast forward some 75 years: “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” (The more things change, the more they remain the same). Look out your window. We are in a kind of comic book world. Fantasy has morphed into reality. The political scene in Washington verges on the surreal, something that attempts to express the workings of the subconscious by fantastic imagery and irrational juxtaposition of subject matter.
Among those wanting to do us in from all sides: in the Oval office, we have”The Groper” and his sycophantic sidekick, “The Toady” (Trump and Pence). In the Senate, scaring the bejesus out of us, are “Wrinkles” (McConnell), “The Grouch” (Grassley), “The Snake” (Hatch), “The Growler” (Graham), “The Flake” (Flake), “Stutters” (Collins) – in the House of Representatives: “Dr. Vermin” and “The Dark Legion” (Ryan and the Freedom Caucus). And finally, in the Supreme Court, one who may prove to be the most formidably malign: “The Sniveler” (Kavanaugh).
Things look dark. The real characters described above represent archetypes of the grownups who made us need to have fantasies in the first place. In the past, the Caped Crusaders could be relied upon to ameliorate the situation. Where are Batman and Robin now when they are desperately needed? Maybe they’ll appear after the election on November 6th. Or am I just dream-fantasizing again? Help me out here!
Robert Jedrzejewski is a member of the Thomas Merton Center.
(TMC newspaper VOL. 48 No. 9 November 2018. All rights reserved)