January has been a whirlwind of controversial events in the life of President Elect Donald J. Trump. In case you aren’t privy, here are some from the last two weeks…
On January 7th he denied that the details of an intelligence report by multiple agencies actually happened, even though the report was made public. On January 8th Meryl Streep, utilized her lifetime achievement acceptance speech to emphasize the need for our nations leader to exemplify respect, empathy, and responsibility; He then tweeted that the actress, who is considered to be the litmus test by which other industries measure greatness, was “…one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood,…”. On January 10th President elect Trump’s nominee Jeff Sessions faced his first day of confirmation hearings under heavy scrutiny due to a history of racism. On January 11th, Trump had his first press conference in over 5 months, during which he shut down a CNN journalist by calling the organization ‘fake news’, regardless of CNN’s long history of professionalism, on the same day that his nominee for Secretary of State was attempting to be vetted by congress. On January 12th, after thorough examination, the head of the government ethics office called Trump’s plan to divest his investments ‘wholly inadequate’. On January 14th Trump called Civil Rights activist and hero John Lewis, “all talk and no action or results.” He also went on to claim that Lewis’ district was in horrible shape and crime infested. Even though the allegations were false, and John Lewis’ ‘talk and actions’ had actually advanced change in the world. Then, on January 18th Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, was unable to answer education related questions during her senate confirmation hearing. I still haven’t even mentioned: Trumps inability to secure any name talent to perform at the inauguration ceremony, the NYC protest on January 19th headed by Michael Moore, and the planned women’s march on Washington scheduled to happen simultaneously as the inauguration. That’s just a few, because the current Presidential election cycle has caused a huge divide, splitting our country virtually in two.
It’s been one of the most controversial in American history yet. One of my Facebook friends posted on his status, “It’s time to step up and support our new president. Even if you didn’t vote for him, step up and be an “American”. Otherwise, move to another country and stop the crying.” But why are people having such a difficult time doing so? What is the big deal? Why is everyone up in arms? What has galvanized people to such a degree that they feel the need to protest on such a magnanimous level? I can only guess that since the majority of Americans didn’t vote for him, they are displeased that the will of the people wasn’t honored. Yet, regardless of that, Trump won the electoral college. So his election win isn’t something that disqualifies him. I can only imagine that what could perhaps be some of the issues people take with Trump are his:
- long history of sexual assault allegations toward women,
- his own admission of engaging in sexual assault towards women,
- his proposed ban on a religious group,
- his association of African Americans with inner-city poverty,
- his mimicking a disabled person,
- his claims that being Mexican American disqualifies a supreme court judge from doing his job,
- his claim that John McCain wasn’t a war hero due to being a POW,
- his implication of gun violence against the democratic nominee,
- his refusal to release his tax returns,
- his extreme lack of experience or understanding of government,
- or even his violation of financial ‘self dealing’ laws.
Between the previously mentioned events, and the list covering the last two weeks, it’s not surprising to see why so many are upset with the Donald. His talk and behavior can appear to be racist, misogynistic, entitled, authoritarian, and xenophobic. Naturally, when someone behaves in a manner that directly contradicts the founding principles of a country, it’s residents are going to question his ability to be a leader for all people, and possibly even protest. The fact that the introduction to this article took up so much time listing the incidents to support why people are protesting, should speak volumes in and unto itself. As a patriotic American, I personally am at a crossroad with this topic. I want and need to support our president, but find myself at odds with almost everything he says and does. So today, I look for clarification and guidance in the only way I know how as I ask myself, on the topic of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump…What Would Wonder Woman Do?
When looking for advice on what Wonder Woman would do, I usually go first to the source material. Those initial years where she was written by her creator Dr. William Moulton Marston III. Today I’m going to start out by referencing a much more modern day Wonder Woman story. One completed as recent as 1999-2001, and written by someone who all of Wonder Woman culture is very well respected for his clarity, articulation, and incredible depth of knowledge and passion for the character. I’m talking about Phil Jimenez. His story ‘Paradise Lost’, which was collected into graphic novel format, was the very first story that popped into my head due to the incredible parallels that so closely mirrored our current election cycle. I realize that to many, Phil’s stories can seem to be quite heady, verbose, and inundated with information. But let me tell you, as I was writing this article I was nothing but grateful for his extreme meticulousness with the mythos.
As I recounted page after page, it was almost as if I was looking into Queen Hippolyte’s Magic Sphere at the future of America. Phil’s story covered the civil war of the Amazons, Wonder Woman’s people, on her island home called Paradise Island (or Themyscira). The conflict was between the two tribes of Amazons: the Themyscirans, who had settled on Paradise Island some thousands of years ago, and the Bana-Mighdallian Amazons from Egypt who (at the time) had only settled there recently. Although both tribes were the descendants of the twin Queen rulers of the Amazons, there was a huge rift between the Themysciran Amazons and the Bana-Mighdallian Amazons, for parallel reasons that divide our own great country.
First off, is the clear and undeniable divide between the more ‘elitist’ (Themyscirans) and the ‘deplorable’ (Bana-Mighdallian) Amazons. The Themyscirans had been on Paradise Island for thousands of years and had developed a complex and multi-leveled society which included: an extended educational system, developed agriculture, clear urban planning and architectural design, and an advanced government. The Bana-Mighdallian Amazons on the other hand did not display these qualities. They were depicted as uncouth, uneducated, lacking culture, and for the most part racially homogenous. At one point in the story the Bana leader Artemis even says to Themysciran Princess Diana (Wonder Woman), “Do you believe, as your mother does, that we’re nothing more than barbarians? Savages?” The same qualities were attributed to the two camps which divided American culture during this current presidential election cycle. The democratic party was viewed as the more educated and diverse, while the Republican party was viewed as less educated, blue collar, and racially homogenous.
Second, is the stark difference between the urban vs. the rural inhabitants. In Jimenez’s Paradise Lost, the Themysciran Amazons had spent thousands of years developing their city-state on this lush tropical island in the Bermuda Triangle. They had developed a gorgeous urban climate that included: a royal palace, senate mall, coliseum, great library, theatre of Dionysus, Panacea’s fisheries, sanctuary of the oracles, royal stables, isle of healing, and multiple religious temples. It was clear that they lived in a progressive urban environment which afforded them multiple advancements sociologically. On the other hand, the Bana-Mighdallian Amazons had recently settled on the island of Themyscira, from their Egyptian roots, a place dramatically different in climate of all types. The story shows the Banas were given refuge ‘some ten miles beyond the capital city’ where they were in a state of continual construction and still didn’t have an adequate water supply. This same divide between the urban and rural dwellers was present in America’s current election cycle. The majority of progressive or democratic voters were from urban areas, and the majority of conservatives or republican voters were from the rural environment. I saw this evidenced in the outcome of the electoral college on election night.
Third, is the incitement of violence. Jimenez referenced incidences of violence between the two camps of Amazons, specifically terrorism to the Bana-Mighdallians. This included attempts to halt construction via use of a bomb on one of their drills, an attempt to spoil the crop soil, and an implied destruction of their military’s arms. The Themysciran Amazons also claimed to have experienced multiple acts of terrorism, including the bombing of one of their memorial sculptures. When a conference was called, both sides accused the other of the respective attacks, and even brought up past racial transgressions. This later led to an all out civil war and battle in the capital city. In America the same manifestation of violence has taken place. During the current election cycle, we have seen an increase in acts of violence between our country’s inhabitants, and it has brought the past transgressions of our country to the surface. Hereby also magnifying the racially unequal foundation upon which our country was built, and exacerbating race relations.
These are just a few of the parallels. I could go on and on at length about the extensive layers of American society reflected in Jimenez’s story. The astonishing accuracy of multiple details which mirror our reality is not just a testament to his outstanding storytelling ability, but his remarkable mastery of the human condition. It truly was a tale of biblical proportions which, like many parables and prophecies, predicted both the future and humanity’s ability to continually make history repeat itself. So why not look to Jimenez’s tale to find resolution? Let’s actually figure out what Wonder Woman did. In Paradise Lost, the Amazing Amazon had a rough road ahead of her. Although she was a continual advocate for peace, after a final full out attack on the Themysciran capital city by multiple contingents of Bana Amazons, Diana was forced to defend. It was in the middle of her defense of Themyscira that she saw it.
She saw that her life’s purpose to spread the Amazon ideals of love by being a living example were in jeopardy, and that the only way to end this war was to do as the 1975 television show lyrics so eloquently articulated; She needed to ‘stop a war with love’, and that she did. In almost predictive fashion, Wonder Woman discovers a sort of sabotage that went on by an ancient foe, and the foe was supported by her own people (Hacking parallels anyone?). Once the saboteur was addressed, she went on to assist in creating a mutually beneficial solution to address the many underlying issues in the lives of all Amazons both Themysciran and Bana-Mighdallian alike; Basically, she listened to her people, and did so with love.
Last year I attended a Wonder Woman signing at a comic book store in Berkeley, CA. The signing featured the most recent key creative team responsible for the character’s ‘rebirth’ story. This included Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott, and Liam Sharp. During the event Greg Rucka mentioned how Wonder Woman is by nature a political character and a piece of political propoganda. He mentioned that to deny her political propaganda would be to deny the very foundation upon which she was built and stands. To find out what the message of that political propaganda might be, I defer to what I have heard (via hear say, mind you) that Christie Marston, granddaughter of Wonder Woman creator, said Wonder Woman was all about, and that is two things: 1) Love, and 2) Fair Play. When I first heard this, it took me a while for it to sink in all the way. I had always equated the two big things Wonder Woman to be about were love and balance, but Christie was right. The original creation of Wonder Woman was an exemplification of the need for fair play in society at the time.
After ruminating over this a bit more, and looking over some of the original works of Dr. Marston, I began to notice some things, namely: The tempering of hostility with love, the good work of one woman supported by community, and the dance between dominance and submission, to name a few. I then realized that fair play and balance were not antonyms, they were actually synonyms in a way. Phil Jimenez, who is intimately attuned to the Wonder Woman mythos and philosophy, knew this already. In every story he writes, he keeps her themes on point, and the solution in Paradise Lost was a perfect example of that love, fair play, and balance when our heroine helped to usher in a clear bi-partisan solution to the Amazon civil war. All in all, I think that Dr. Marston would have been extremely proud of Phil Jimenez. He took the original work, placed it into modern day circumstances, and reflected our current political climate (almost to a T), where Wonder Woman brought her exemplary solution of love, fair play, and balance to the table for us to learn from.
So, when I asked myself “What Would Wonder Woman Do?”, I think I have come up with a pretty decent answer. One to which I will utilize many examples from her mythos to properly identify. First and foremost, I believe that Wonder Woman would always welcome healthy debate and conversation. In Rucka’s first run of Wonder Woman, the amazing amazon was in the midst of promoting her book entitled “Reflections”. Many people showed up to protest her message, and when asked about it, she merely took notice of the protesters and was happy that a conversation on said topics were finally beginning.
Second, I believe that Wonder Woman would listen and have empathy. This is one of the things that I adore about all of the most memorable and powerful Wonder Woman writers, and their stories. Wonder Woman always displays empathy and it almost always becomes one of her most effective tools. One (of many) scenes in the latest Rucka written and Scott drawn run, issue #12 to be exact, depicts Wonder Woman interrogating a harbinger of war. Basically she is interviewing a terrorist sent by the God of War. The terrorist enters espousing his vitriol, but when Wonder Woman walks in after him, she simply says one thing as she presents her magic lasso. “Help me to understand. To understand we must have truth.” After the terrorist breaks down the plan for war, she sees the pain being experienced by him and simply opens her arms with love. Nicola’s 3 quarter page drawing of her gently rubbing the head of a terrorist as he said, “forgive me” literally brought me to tears.
Third, I believe that Wonder Woman would promote authentic communication. We all know that the lasso of truth is one of Wonder Woman’s signature and most powerful weapons. In issue #10 of her most recent incarnation written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Nicola Scott, there is a scene that perfectly depicts the benefits of authentic communication grounded in truth. Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, and Dr. Barbara Minerva are all sitting around a table making lame attempts at communicating. Diana pulls out the ‘golden perfect’ or lasso of truth, and once everyone takes hold and feels it’s power, they are able to communicate efficiently and effectively due to their ability to be authentic and truthful. The outcome was true communion. The were granted the ability to be connected, and isn’t that what we all want in life…Connection? Last, I believe that Wonder Woman would enroll others in her quest for peace. Very much like Wonder Woman’s team up with Etta Candy and the holiday girls in the 40’s, this latest run of Greg Rucka, has Diana teaming up with Etta Candy, Steve Trevor, and future villain Barbara Minerva. Establishing her community and ‘family’ was essential to embarking upon creating a community of love in the world. Did she have to fight? Yes, but only when there was no other alternative and when it was forced upon her.
In conclusion, in the case of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, I think that in order to follow in her example, the ideal course of action would be to reflect that same approach and apply similar solutions she used in many of her issues. Avoiding the vilification of opposing thoughts, by cultivating an ideological exchange on both sides. Having and creating empathy with others, regardless of which side of the argument they might rest. Utilize and promote authentic communication, and enroll others in a quest for peace. But do so through love, and only fight civilly, when necessary, and in defense. Recently, we were reminded of a great man who believed in these same ideals. He also believed in civil protest, because sometimes civil protest is essential to effecting change.
But more than anything he was also an advocate of empathy, authentic communication grounded in truth, and most importantly love. No, I’m not talking about Dr. William Moulton Marston III who created Wonder Woman in the 40s. I’m talking about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from the 60s. Very much like Wonder Woman, he endeavored to be and example for all. He changed our minds, and it changed the world. Let us all endeavor to be an example of listening, authenticity, truth, empathy, and love. It truly can change the world. Huge thank you to Phil Jimenez, Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, and Nicola Scott for the fantastic inspiring stories. Oh, and if you’re a comic book reader, you’ll see what I just did there…
“When you need to stop an asteroid, you get Superman. When you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But when you need to end a war, you get Wonder Woman.” -Gail Simone