If I could be a superhero, I wouldn’t be super strong so I could punch people harder. I wouldn’t be super angry so I could hurt criminals in the name of justice. I wouldn’t punish with my super powers, deciding who deserves protection and who deserves torture or death.
If I could be a superhero, I would defuse anger. I would bestow peace. I would create understanding.
Imagine that when a superhero comes to the rescue of people being held hostage by a gang of thugs that she does not crash through the wall and dispatch the gang with super violence, traumatizing guilty and innocent alike with the spectacle of her head-smashing and flesh-rending. Imagine that she does not kick in the door, mega-guns blazing, mowing down the evil-doers with lightning reflexes and finely honed killer instincts. Imagine that her super presence is not punctuated by screams of terror and pain.
Imagine instead that the thugs suddenly drop their guns, their faces quizzical, their blinding rage wiped away by a wave of tranquility. They are not sedated into unconsciousness to arise later still bitter, but rather awakened entirely from their cold trance of hatred. They can feel again. They can feel the humanity of their victims, see them as people. They can feel their own humanity, the empathy of blood and bone, common needs, common desires. The superhero fills their hearts with life’s inherent joy. The bliss of food and sleep. The balm of quiet contact. They no longer want to subjugate and horrify. They want to live and feel alive.
And how does the superhero take advantage of their lowered defenses? Does she bind them, rendering them physically helpless? Does she euthanize them, judging them as irredeemable, irretrievable, unworthy of life itself? No. She embraces them. They are powerless to resist her and she fills their empty spaces, the spaces that were until only moments ago occupied by leering demons, spaces left raw and open. She fills them with love and generosity. She heals all their wounds. She kisses their hands and whispers comfort in their ears. And they are saved. Everyone is saved.
Imagine for a moment that the aliens invade our planet and begin their bloody harvest, believing that we are less than they, that we do not experience life as fully as they do. That we are food. Does the superhero use his super brain to invent a plague that will kill off the aliens, laying them waste to rot in dead ships high above the clouds? Does he lead an army of super friends in a campaign of super space destruction, blowing the invading ships into balls of fire, slaying millions with each super sweep of laser vision?
Imagine instead that the superhero holds out his hand, closes his eyes, and reaches simultaneously into each and every alien’s consciousness. He shows them what we are, allowing them into his secret heart, releasing the essence of his being into them until they can not help but see that we are the same. He shows them that together we can all eat, we can all survive. Our differences can strengthen us. Our similarities can strengthen us. We are always stronger together. He shows them these things and they understand.
And when the aliens give up their secrets to the superhero, does he use this knowledge to threaten them? Does he smile and pretend to befriend them while filing contingencies in the back of his super mind? Does he settle for mutually assured destruction? No. In a burst of super communication, he teaches the rest of us what he has learned. He inspires us to welcome our new friends, impressing upon us the possibilities this new relationship creates. He bathes us all, human and alien, in the radiance of his power. The power of compassion. The power of love.
I want to see these stories. These powers require courage, too, the courage we seem to feel is the sole province of the fighter. But our mettle is also tested by trust. There is risk in forgiveness. I find this action exciting, more exciting perhaps than the super fists flying and the blood spraying. I thrill to the drama of negotiation. I gasp at the moment of intoxicating redemption.
There are so many monsters waiting to be transformed. So many superheroes waiting to be imagined. Why always with the punching?