This has probably been the most difficult What Would Wonder Woman Do that I’ve written to date, and after 6 drafts it ended much differently than when it began. Upon my initial observation of Friday, August 11th’s events at the University of Virginia where a group of approximately 215 white nationalists brandishing torches, chanting “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil”, encircled another group of around 30 counter protesting students, I must admit I was unaffected. Myself, having originated from a state (Pennsylvania) which is 70% caucasian, primarily Christian, for years held a top ten spot in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘highest rate of hate groups per capita in the U.S.’, was the location for many of my memories where I was called the ’N word’ multiple times, and beat up for the way I looked, dressed, or merely the people with whom I associated during my childhood,…from my perspective this was merely business as usual in the United States, and I didn’t understand people’s frustration. ‘Move along! Nothing to see here!” were my thoughts and you really can’t blame me for my ambivalence. That is until the next day. On Saturday August 12th after a not so successful “Unite The Right” rally, where a man used a car to ram a crowd, killing one person (Heather Heyer) and injuring nineteen others. That’s when the ambivalence disappeared and I felt something raw. I was completely in shock, and all I could think is that this kind of anger signified to me, we were no longer dealing with a simple ‘cultural pride’ issue; This was hate, pure and simple.
For my fellow geeks out there, I equated it with Wonder Woman Vol. 2, issue #6 by George Perez when Ares the War God finally revealed to us his true face as the mastermind behind all which was plaguing the earth. The irony and parallel of people wearing swastikas, a symbol often associated with evil, but no longer feeling the need to wear white hoods, hence, doing their own kind of unmasking, was not lost on me. It was in that moment that I began writing. I was lost, upset, and in need of counsel. For me, the only way I could find it was searching, what some of my friends and I call the ‘scriptures’ of Diana and figuring out exactly What Wonder Woman Would Do. I frantically researched with precision and wrote with passion. I ended up putting together a long and articulate draft by the evening of Monday, August 14th, the same day when in a press conference our 45th President said,
“We must love each other. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that brings us together as Americans. Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in it’s name are criminals and thugs. Including the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-nazis, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal.”
There it was! I had the centerpiece for my article, and surprisingly it came from someone I knew to be foreign to oppression, and married to privilege. I began making updates and on the morning of Tuesday, August 15th I started polishing and preparing the article for a fantastically fabulous #WonderWomanWednesday run the next day. Then, at the drop of a hat, everything changed again. My phone alerts began buzzing with fury, because our 45th President had just gone on national television, and nullified everything he just said the day before with his “there were very fine people on both sides” comments. While I do not believe it was his intent, in that moment the country wide unification immediately disintegrated, and the nationwide polarization had been reignited with just a few of his words; The pen was truly mightier than the sword in this case. I truly believe that our President’s intent was to display and prove his potential fairness in judgment, and maybe even an ability to be objective…but it was so poorly articulated. Remember that desire to have a president that wasn’t so PC with what he said? Well, our current leader’s lack of articulation and inability to be ‘P.C.’ had just, for a countless time, restarted a conflict…nationwide! Not to mention, rendered my article was completely null and void. My initial WWWWD about his Inauguration had urged for compassion and openness to his presidency. But the nuances of representing such a diverse spectrum of race, religions, cultures, and creeds require precision. And after just over 7 months of continual inaccuracies, in-articulations (demonstrated in the accompanying links), and his follow up appearances and statements which continue to encourage and embolden white supremacists in America, I need to ask a new question. Since statistically it is on the rise, today, I’m going to ask What Would Wonder Woman Do about White Supremacy?
WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE:
The character was given life back in 1941’s World War II era, when the world was in a kind of turmoil. Keeping the socioeconomic context in mind, I truly believe that creator William Moulton Marston III, being an accomplished Ivy league graduate psychologist, had profound insight to what ailed humans psychologically, and also what was affecting the global consciousness politically. Specifically, he wanted to combat this ever present hate and oppression which existed in our patriarchal society, and offer some psychological healing. It’s all but spelled out for us in her origin when Aphrodite (love) tells Queen Hippolyte (Mother of Wonder Woman) how, “The gods have decreed that this American officer crash on Paradise Island. You must deliver him back to America – to help fight the forces of hate and oppression.” Right there, hate and oppression were called by name as that which she was fighting against. In a later origin, Marston also had Aphrodite (love) refer to what she was sent to fight as ‘war and evil’. Those names seemed to be synonymous with each other, and love (Aphrodite) was the primary deity sending her champion.
It’s most notable that World War II was the era of the Nazis, who are essentially white supremacists and the poster children for hate and oppression of the time. So, her conception was born out of an idea to combat these types of ideologies and those who would promote them. Wonder Woman literally fought Nazis and white supremacists nearly 76 years ago. Now the same ideologies are rearing their heads once again. Personally, I don’t believe that it’s a mistake that the world is seeing a resurgence of interest in Wonder Woman. We are craving her as a champion to our cause, and the box office sales are proof. We are also craving her message. The Wonder Woman movie (fantastically directed by Patty Jenkins) ended with her saying,
“It’s not about deserve, it’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.” – Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman was love’s messenger and champion before, and she is once again. The idea of love as a remedy to hate is needed to heal our world, and our current president, has actually admitted to it. But how do we do it? What can everyday people who aren’t in the throws of this struggle do? Well, unfortunately we are not Wonder Woman. The strength of Hercules has not been bestowed upon us, and we were not trained our entire lives by a group of warriors who spent 3,000 years honing their martial skills. We don’t have god-like powers, and are not the divinely ordained champions of fair play. The majority of people who I encounter on a daily basis don’t even know how to throw a proper punch. The responsibility of physical combat is something that is unavailable to many. While we don’t have divine powers, and for those who don’t have combat training, what you DO have available to you are other powers which were exemplified in the book. I took a look at some of the ways in which Wonder Woman would combat hate and oppression in her stories of the past, her most recent comic, and her movie, giving them present day application, with which we mortals could best relate. Here are three non-physical ways you can combat white supremacy in your every days lives, and fulfill what Wonder Woman would do!
ONE – STOP A WAR WITH LOVE:
Love is probably one of the most powerful themes in Wonder Woman. It’s practically an unavoidable topic when you bring her up in conversation. Especially, since one of the first things that people say when you talk about her is, “OMG I looooove Wonder Woman!” Three things about Diana’s relationship to Love in the original Marston stories:1) Aphrodite, the goddess of love was a supreme deity in the life of the Amazons and from whence life sprung for Princess Diana. 2) Wonder Woman’s power over people came out of her being in service to love (and wisdom), and 3) Wonder Woman’s ability to not let her extreme power corrupt her, was due to her submitting to love via her always wearing the bracelets of submission. These multiple occurrences pointing to the power of love are not coincidence. There was a clear and repeated message that being in service to love was a kind of access to true power. It’s the one power that we all have. The evidence of that power could be seen in the way she treated people. Boston Blake talks about one of these ways during his Wonder Woman talk entitled “Kink In The Golden Lasso”. He mentions that 1940s Diana was often seen engaging with many people, friends and enemies alike, in a “tell me your story” kind of manner.
Being present, listening, showing a desire to understand, openness, and desire to help are all things closely associated with someone who is considered loving. Lynda Carter was so good at this during her hit TV show in the 70s. She has been interviewed many times talking about how she just wanted to make Diana a relatable woman. This commitment to creating a Wonder Woman that seemed to line up and be reflective of Marston’s “feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman”, is what made Carter’s Diana so successful. Even when reprimanding her foes, you often saw Carter’s Wonder Woman consoling them or guiding them in a loving manner toward reform in the very same scene.
This “trusted soul” as Greg Rucka recently coined the term in his run, to me, was evidence of love in Wonder Woman and that same behavior can be evidence of love in us. Displaying these qualities can often make a difference between a blowout and a bear hug. Sometimes all we need to do is listen, have empathy, or even compassion for a person’s situation. In Wonder Woman #24, Cheetah, a deadly foe, is attacking another of Diana’s enemies named Veronica Cale. Diana defends Cale, and renders Cheetah unconscious so that Cale can be saved, and Wonder Woman can assist Cheetah in getting help towards reform. This reminds me of the Marston adventures and at one point Diana even says, “I understand that you see weakness in the places where I find strength”. Love and compassion is one of the qualities that makes Wonder Woman stronger. If we use her example, this is one way we can combat hate in our every day lives, and make ourselves and each other stronger in the process. A little love can go a long way. I saw proof of this in a recent documentary. In Vice’s ‘America’s Far White: HATE THY NEIGHBOR’, our host Jamali met with Daniel Burnside, Pennsylvania NSM’s state leader. The N.S.M. is the National Socialist Movement for white civil rights (Oddly enough, Mr. Burnside is a white nationalist leader in my home state that I mentioned earlier). In the documentary, they had a full day of open, honest conversation and sharing. Take note that their time together, which began with compassion and empathy, ended very differently than expected. The two while saying goodbye ended with an encouragement to stay in contact. Is this how your conversations end with those whom you have disagreements or differing points of view? They were proof to me that a little love, goes a long way. It truly is the remedy to all this hate.
TWO – MAKE A LIAR TELL THE TRUTH:
The first introduction of the magic lasso was in Sensation Comics #6 (1942). It’s important to note that after praying all night to Aphrodite and Athena, they awarded Wonder Woman this fantastic gift, to make people obey her. Although the magic lasso originally began as one of obedience in the 40s, it’s power has evolved to primarily being associated with truth, as it was often used to extract information like in (see picture).
Not surprising since Dr. Marston was attributed as discovering the systolic blood pressure test, which was the predecessor to the lie detector test. In so many of Wonder Woman’s adventures, having truthful and factual information was essential to advancing her fight with hate and oppression. I believe that the same can be said for us today. Insisting on having truth when encountering these kinds of ideologies can be great groundwork and starting point. I was pleased to see this tradition, along with Marston’s idea of love and ‘tell me your story’, followed in the most recent story by Shea Fontana and illustrated by David Messina. In it Diana doesn’t lash out with all of her might or skill. In near Marstonian manner, she instead uses the truth/magic lasso to put her on the right path.
One immediate example that I can think of when facts were essential to combating an oppressive or racist misconception is how in February of 2015, Gene Alday insinuated that African Americans from his hometown are unemployed and on food stamps. The Huffington Post published an article a week later, citing the U.S. Department of agriculture statistics which show 40.2% of Caucasians and only 25.7% of African Americans were collecting food stamps in 2013. The idea was racist, and was disproven with facts. The truth was indeed illuminating in this case, as it not only disproved the assumption, but also shed light on the origins of his misconception. Insisting on facts and truthful information can be one of our greatest weapons upon which we can rely.
THREE – GRACE OF THE GODS
In the original Marston comic books, when Wonder Woman removed her ‘bracelets of submission’ she would go into a berserker rage and wouldn’t be able to control her power or emotions. The Amazons were required by Aphrodite to wear these bracelets, and it is yet a third time that love was the deity and access to one of Wonder Woman’s abilities. In this case, submission to love was actually required for Wonder Woman to be able to always show grace. But what does that look like? Webster’s dictionary defines grace as: a way of moving that is smooth and attractive…not stiff or awkward, b) a controlled polite, and pleasant way of behaving, c) skills that are needed for behaving in a polite way in social situations.
While wearing her bracelets, the symbol of Wonder Woman’s submission to love, she was able to harness her power and exhibit grace. In so many of Marston’s early adventures she seemed to see the challenges she faced as mere opportunities to do her best work, and was never easily ruffled. Even in the most difficult of situations she exhibited a kind of grace. That calm, smooth, pleasant demeanor often times enabled her to do things in places she might never have dreamt. I’ve seen that graceful confidence and ‘can-do’ attitude in many of the more modern writers and artists for the Princess of Peace: George Perez, Greg Rucka, Andrew Johnson, Nicola Scott, Gail Simone, Liam Sharp and David Messina to name a few. One in particular stands out to me, and it’s in Wonder Woman #170 by Phil Jimenez. Diana is challenged by someone with an opposing view, and she exhibits fantastic grace during the conversation.
This third example leads me to believe that if we submit to love, we are always capable of showing grace. That ability to exhibit control in even the most tense of situations or confrontations could be (dare I say) our saving grace. One of the most applicable and relevant modern examples is the discussion that Richard Spencer had with Antifa member Lacy MacAuley vs. the discussion Richard Spenser had with Charles Barkley. One was heated with pointed accusations, potentially violent speak, and led to a closing down on both sides. While during the other, people were heard and ideas were exchanged. Exhibiting grace when encountering hateful rhetoric in your everyday life in person and online, can mean the difference of being able to exchange, and idea and never being heard.
However, grace isn’t always possible when people aren’t willing to meet you half way. Sometimes the best grace you can have is acknowledging those times and have a qualified person speak on your behalf. Contacting your local political representative when you see non-factual, untruthful, and hateful/oppressive legislation introduced, can be a great way of showing grace and also having your voice heard and counted.
Superman and Wonder Woman were both a form of wish fulfillment in the 1940s, and each was an answer to combating the hate and oppression of the time, which was often represented and given tangibility with the image of Nazis, who became synonymous with said ideologies. Unfortunately, we were not given alien or divine powers. We can not lift buildings, deflect bullets, or fly, and we don’t have a magic lasso to wield. Personally, I come from a family of law enforcement. I have training in 4 different forms of martial arts, and I’ve had to defend myself once or twice. But, if you have gone through any kind of martial arts training, you know that it’s always Athena’s “wisdom before words” (Xena, Warrior Princess). I also know that most people don’t have the responsibility that comes with that kind of knowledge. So I’m hoping that this gives others some alternative ways to combat hate in their daily lives by using the Amazing Amazon’s cure. Wonder Woman’s cure for these dangerous ideologies of white supremacy was and is love. Even if you are equipped to join her with a sword, I urge you to also follow her example daily by first: leading with love in all you do, sticking to facts and truth when engaging, and emulating her grace in your conduct. It may not seem like much, but it is one of the things that Wonder Woman Would Do, and it just might just be our saving grace!
I close with a quote recently tweeted out from someone who always was immaculately articulate, brilliantly summed up this situation, and always led with love, truth, and grace:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.” – Nelson Mandella
Remember your power, everyone. Lead with love, truth, and grace.
May the Glory of Gaea be with you, always.